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LEE COUNTY FERTILIZER ORDINANCE

The PURRE Water Coalition applauds Lee County for stepping up to the plate in coming up with a Fertilizer Ordinance for the county. It is a step forward to improve and maintain, in our own back yard, the waterways that we depend on for economy, lifestyle, and recreation.

It is evident that Lee County understands the importance of controlling and limiting as much as possible the amount of nutrient –laden runoff from residential neighborhoods, farms, golf courses, commercial and industrial areas. For sure, the detrimental effect of the quality or our bays, estuaries, streams, lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico has been evident in the last few years. We cannot blame all the pollution in our waters on massive releases from Lake Okeechobee. The fact that we have had a drought with no releases this year, yet we still are seeing enormous amounts of Red Drift Algae, and other Harmful Algae Blooms, shows that our local communities contributes to pollution.

In reading over this proposed ordinance, PURRE found many positive points that would help to improve water quality and instill a common sense approach to management of fertilizer application. However, there are many areas that fall short of making this ordinance truly efficient in its purpose to improve water quality in Lee County.

On Page 3: Purpose and Intent – “to minimize the negative environmental effects said fertilizers have on” …waterways. “Regulation of nutrients, including both phosphorus and nitrogen contained in fertilizer…is a crucial step towards improving and maintaining water and habitat quality.”

Knowing the intent of this ordinance I would like to point out what PURRE feels make this document weak in reaching the goals intended.

1. Section four: Application (p. 6)

“This ordinance shall NOT apply to non-professional landscapers.”

Whether or not Lee County feels they can monitor home -owners, this ordinance should apply to ALL people using fertilizers. Human nature tends to take the easy way out. If homeowners knew that there were rules to follow, with consequences of breaking the rules, they would tend more to educate themselves on this ordinance.

2. It is noted that there are not limits on the nitrogen and phosphorus content of

residential fertilizers. We suggest that limits would be set. Science clearly demonstrates that excess nitrogen and phosphorus significantly reduce water quality.

3. Section five, B: Institutional Landscapers (p. 7)

This section refers to registering, yet says nothing about rules for application.

The following statement should be added: “At least one Certified Professional Landscaper will be on site while fertilizer is being applied.”

4. Section seven: #2, Slow Release Fertilizers (p. 9)

“Professional Landscaping Businesses and Institutional Landscapers are ENCOURAGED to use Slow Release Fertilizer…”

If one of the purposes of this ordinance is to lesson nitrate leaching and run-off, why is it not mandated to ONLY use Slow Release Fertilizers? This should be reworded to say, “Professional and Institutional Landscapers WILL ONLY use Slow Release Fertilizers.”

5. Section seven: E, Buffer (p. 10)

“If a spreader deflector shield is used no fertilizer shall be applied in or within 3 feet of the edge of any water body, seawall, or designated wetland.”

Page 2, Fertilizer Ordinance (PURRE Water Coalition)

This should be changed to: “Even with spreader deflector shields, no fertilizer shall be applied within at least 15 feet of the edge of any water body, seawall, or designated wetland.” We would prefer to see a 25 foot minimum. With a 3 foot buffer, run off is Un-avoidable.

6. Section eight: (p.13) Golf Courses are to follow BMP for the Enhancement of Environmental Quality on Florida Golf Courses.

We would suggest that Lee County would also urge, maybe by an incentive program, that Golf Courses would use the Audubon International Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. The Sanctuary Golf Course on Sanibel has the Audubon Certification, and in speaking with the course manager, he feels that the DEP Program along with the Audubon program gives enough flexibility to provide an excellent maintained course, while preserving and protecting the environment.

(section 8, continued)

“Specialized Turf Managers shall use their best professional judgment”…This is relying on professionals to monitor themselves. Specialized Turf Managers might not always be aware of or inclined to do the best for the environment.

7. Section 11: Violations and fines, (p. 14)

Violation fines need to be more severe. If the fines are too low, people will not take them seriously. A “three strikes you are out” rule should apply here. If you are fined 3 times, the Professional and Institutional Landscapers license should be taken away. Considering the county has concerns for the enforcement of this ordinance, consequences for breaking the rules should be more harsh.

MONITORING AND ENFORCING THIS ORDINANCE WILL BE OF UPMOST IMPORTANCE. ENOUGH STAFF WILL BE NEEDED TO MONITOR THE ENTIRE COUNTY.

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"We must build a peace in South Florida - a peace between the people and their place, between the natural environment and man-made settlement, between the works of man and the life of mankind itself. "
~ Florida Gov. Reubin Askew ~