mwk student blog

BBWK Partners with University Students to Study Biscayne Bay

Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper is excited to announce our new partnership with the University of Florida Levin College of Law Conservation Clinic. UF law students will work with us to develop a comprehensive report examining the legal and policy-based framework that overlays Biscayne Bay and its surrounding areas. The report will focus on summarizing the federal, state, and local laws and policy, which govern Biscayne Bay.

Biscayne Bay is surrounded by diverse federal, state, and local entities, including one national park (Biscayne National Park), multiple state preserves and state parks (e.g. Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, Oleta River State Park, Barnacle Historic State Park, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area, and others), one county (Miami-Dade County) and over 30 municipalities. To the south lies the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which includes Crocodile Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. We hope to examine these governance frameworks to show areas of overlap and dissonance between governance and interaction with the Bay.


Federal Governance

We will examine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Clean Water Act (CWA) as it relates to Biscayne Bay. We will examine critical habitat and federally-protected species, such as the local staghorn coral, manatees and sea turtles, evaluating the enforcement of the ESA. Under the CWA, discharges of pollutants are prohibited. However, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program allows for facilities to obtain regulated permits to discharge pollutants.

State Governance

NPDES permits are required whenever there is an addition of a pollutant from a point source into navigable water. Here, these permits are administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on behalf of the federal government. We plan to examine the different facilities on and near the Bay that have NPDES permits. Examining these NPDES facilities will help BBWK determine current pollution input activities around the Bay. The team will also examine Florida Department of Environmental Protection's administration of the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve management plan.

Local Governance

We will compile the comprehensive plans of different municipalities that surround the Bay to determine the regulations governing each municipality's interaction with the Bay. We hope that this examination will yield recommended policies for future implementation. We also plan to examine the South Florida Water Management District's oversight of the Bay, and the infrastructure of both storm-water and waste-water systems that eventually drain into the Bay. Mapping is critical to understanding the comprehensive framework. BBWK and the UF law students have teamed up with local GIS-wiz Leah Colombo, a master's student at University of Miami, to help generate easy to understand, yet detailed, maps of the jurisdictions and governance frameworks. The ultimate goal of compiling this comprehensive document is to provide BBWK and the concerned citizens with the ability to quickly and thoroughly understand the laws and policies that are affecting the Bay on both a micro- and macro-level.

Here is an example of two maps made by Leah!: Municipalities Tributaries

If you or your organization has any information that may assist the students in this project, please contact Rachel Silverstein at [email protected].


About the Students

The University of Florida Conservation Clinic provides students with exposure to environmental and land use law professional practice, applied research and public policy analysis under the instruction and guidance of Professor Tom Ankersen. Melissa Fedenko and Elizabeth Turner are both third-year law students at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Leah Colombo, a graduate assistant from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, is generating informational maps using relevant GIS data.

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