November 2021 – As noted in last month’s article, fertilizer application is considered a significant contributor to the excessive nutrient loadings of our waterways, including the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay. These excessive nutrients can cause algae blooms that can deplete oxygen and cloud the water causing problems for wildlife and seagrasses. In one of its worst cases, it can contribute to red tide events. Several years ago, there was a wave of local government fertilizer ordinances adopted prior to a preemption by the State of Florida. At that time local governments chose among a number of details from their local ordinances. One of those was a ban on the sale and/or application of fertilizer during the rainy season. Rainy season application of fertilizer is considered problematic, because heavy rains can wash recently applied fertilizer into the water ways. At that time, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) went against the recommendation of the River Board and elected not to include in their ordinance a rainy season sale or application ban.
The BOCC is now considering strengthening their fertilizer ordinance with these measures. The proposed ordinance would add a ban of the application of nitrogen and phosphorus-based fertilizers during the rainy season, July 1 through September 30. Additionally, it will include a clear set of rules for commercial applicators. The River Board’s Technical Advisory Council took action in September to recommend to the full River Board that they support the update. In October the River Board took action to issue a letter of support for the strengthening of the fertilizer ordinance to protect the quality of the river and other waterways. This recommendation was transmitted to the BOCC for their consideration ahead of its November 17, 2021 public hearing.