June 29, 2022
ATLANTA (June 29, 2022) – On Friday, June 24, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox joined EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman and U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz to visit Big Cypress National Preserve and Indian River Lagoon in South Florida. The site visits highlighted the importance of these unique and irreplaceable water resources as places worth protecting for the surrounding communities, South Florida’s ecological health, and its economy.
“This visit was such an important opportunity to get out and learn about these unique and irreplaceable water resources,” said EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox. “These waters should be protected, and EPA is doing its part, including investing $4.5 million in the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program over five years through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Protecting these waters takes support from all levels of government and EPA stands ready to support the state of Florida in their efforts to protect and improve water quality.”
“Big Cypress National Preserve and Indian River Lagoon both provide important habitat to a great diversity of plants and animals – from Florida panthers to manatees,” said Fish and Wildlife and Parks Assistant Secretary Estenoz. “I was delighted to travel with Assistant Administrator Fox and EPA officials to see firsthand how our work together can address issues and challenges in these ecosystems.”
“The opportunity to visit such diverse natural habitats further highlighted the important role these delicate and valuable water resources have in the stability of Florida’s ecosystem,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. “Working with our federal and state partners, it is our responsibility to ensure the health and vitality of these resources continue for future generations.”
The tour kicked off at Big Cypress National Preserve where Assistant Administrator Fox met with National Park Service representatives and learned about the highly diverse ecosystem and the hydrologic and cultural importance of the preserve. Big Cypress National Preserve is a freshwater swamp ecosystem that protects the water quality of the preserve and surrounding region while offering habitat for Florida’s most iconic animals – from alligators to the endangered Florida panther.
From there, Assistant Administrator Fox traveled to the Indian River Lagoon to learn more about the devastating impacts poor water quality is having on sea grasses and, by extension, on the manatees that depend on those very grasses for food.
Indian River Lagoon is part of the National Estuary Program, which is an EPA place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance. This year Indian River Lagoon received $750,000 in annual National Estuary Program funding. EPA is committed to working with state and local partners to find solutions that will improve water quality and restore the ecosystem balance.
As we approach the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, EPA is committed to working with Florida to improve water quality and tackle the environmental challenges facing this treasured ecosystem through sound science and partnership.
The Clean Water Act requires EPA to develop criteria for surface water quality that accurately reflect the latest scientific knowledge on the impacts of pollutants on human health and the environment. These criteria are recommendations and state and Tribal governments may implement them as is or use them as guidance in developing their own. Learn more about water quality criteria.