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Florida Wildlife Federation sues over "Outstanding Florida Waters" designation

By Bruce Ritchie

The Florida Wildlife Federation and a Gulfport couple are suing the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the federal agency and the state of Florida have failed to enforce state and federal laws for designated "Outstanding Florida Waters."

There are 309 designated "Outstanding Florida Waters," many of them listed since 1979, and they include the Apalachicola and Suwannee Rivers, the Florida Keys and Hillsborough River.

Water bodies receive the designation to prevent the lowering of existing water quality and to preserve the "exceptional ecological and recreational significance" of the waterbody, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Tom Reese, an attorney representing Alfred J. and Cindy Davis and the Florida Wildlife Federation, says those designated outstanding Florida waters have become degraded by pollution despite the laws and despite a 2010 settlement agreement with the EPA in another lawsuit. He filed petitions in the 1980s to list six waterways including Sarasota Bay and the Withlacoochee River in West-Central Florida.