TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried continued her three-day Clean Water Initiative tour with stops in Tampa and St. Petersburg — areas hardest hit by the recent red tide outbreak.
Fried first introduced the initiative last week, which is aimed at updating and strengthening the department’s water policies to better protect the state’s natural resources.
It comes at a time when the Tampa Bay area is being plagued by red tide, the state is seeing a rise in manatee deaths and the aftermath of the Piney Point wastewater emergency is still being felt.
Fried says when she came into office, she made a commitment to furthering clean water efforts in the state, but that too often partisan politics get in the way of protecting the environment.
"From starting at zero when I came into office, to where we are this week, from making this announcement of the Office of Agriculture Water Policy Clean Water Initiative, we have come a long way to make these landmark changes," Fried said at a press conference Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
According to Fried, the following first-ever practices will be put in place under the initiative:
- Conducting in-person visits in cooperation with agriculture stakeholders instead of relying on voluntary self-reporting when it comes to compliance.
- Taking action against anyone refusing to comply with state law.
- Working with producers on corrective action plans and refer cases of non-compliance to the DEP for enforcement.
- Inspecting, collecting and aggregating detailed records of the nutrients being applied by agriculture producers on the reduction landscape.
Under the Clean Water Initiative, Fried said the Office of Agriculture Water Policy will reinvent its program to prioritize high-value projects and continue to employ more efficient nutrients and water usage practices, among other things.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said while the city's red tide situation appears to be improving with less algae in the bay, there remains concern it could return.