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Julie Espy

Water For Fighting
Water For Fighting
Julie Espy

 In this episode, Brett sits down with national water quality data expert – Julie Espy. They discuss her rise through the ranks at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; whether Florida’s Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) are still the best tool to remediate water quality degradation; and why one should never, ever, call her a Sooner

To learn more about the state’s Basin Management Action Plans, go here: https://floridadep.gov/dear/water-quality-restoration/content/basin-management-action-plans-bmaps

To find out more about SAS, visit their webpage here: https://www.sas.com/en_us/home.html

To reach out to Julie directly, email her at: Julie.espy@sas.com


Our theme song is “Doing Work For Free”, by Bo Spring Band (Apple Music) (Spotify) (Pandora)

Speaker 1 00:00:15 Welcome to Water for Fighting, where we discuss the past, present, and future of water in Florida with the people who make it happen. I’m your host, Brett Cyphers. I’ve spent over 20 years working with and getting to know the people who’ve made water, their life’s work, and I created this podcast to allow you, the listener, to get to know them as well. This episode of Water for Fighting is brought to you by Florida Water Advocates, Florida Water Advocates, where we’re tackling the water resource challenges of the future Today, I think you’re all really gonna like today’s guest, Julie Espy. Julie May be an Oklahoma native, but she’s an honorary Florida woman since she graduated from college and moved here in 1994. Julie worked her way up the ranks in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over 23 years, finishing as the director of the Division of Environmental Assessment, and she’s now the National Director of Water Quality and Environmental Data Solutions at sass. Let’s get right into it. So you grew up in Oklahoma as the daughter of two Oklahoma State Cowboys. Is calling someone a sooner in your family fighting words?
Speaker 2 00:01:17 Uh, absolutely. My dad pretty much wears orange and black or garnet and gold every single day. Uh, so yes, he would, uh, he would definitely disown me if I, uh, called him a sooner.
Speaker 1 00:01:30 Well, tell me what that, that was like growing up in Oklahoma, where, well, where was your father from? Because you said he was in the military as a helicopter pilot, is that right?
Speaker 2 00:01:38 My grandfather. Your
Speaker 1 00:01:39 Grandfather, yeah. Okay.
Speaker 2 00:01:40 So my dad grew up kind of all over, you know, in Germany. Uh, he was born in New Hampshire, although he never really lived there, I don’t think. Um, and he has siblings, so they were all born in different parts of the world. Uh, but my grandfather and grandmother settled in Latin, Oklahoma. It is a, um, big army facility, Fort Si. Uh, so it’s a big, oh my goodness, <laugh>. It’s a big training facility, so almost anyone who’s ever been in the army has gone through Fort Sill. I, uh, I’ve, I can go in anywhere and find somebody who’s probably been through there.
Speaker 1 00:02:14 Yeah, me too. I was in, I was in the Army, but I managed to, uh, Dodge Fort Sill, thankfully.
Speaker 2 00:02:19 So I’ll say lucky you <laugh>. Right? I mean, I loved Oklahoma. Um, it was, it was totally different, obviously than Florida, but, uh, good people there. Southwest Oklahoma is beautiful in its own way. Um, very different. Oklahoma in a lot of ways is sort of like Florida. It’s very diverse. Northeast Oklahoma’s hills of the Ozarks, lots of trees and water. Southwest Oklahoma, not so much.
Speaker 1 00:02:45 That was gonna be one of my questions is do they in fact have trees, water and trees in southwest Oklahoma?
Speaker 2 00:02:51 Um, not too much, really. Uh, you hear the, you know, the song Oklahoma and the Open Plains, it’s very much so, uh, kind of western Oklahoma and certainly southwest Oklahoma. It’s one of the reasons why I left is because there isn’t a lot of water. I, I knew I wanted to study biology and water ecology and those types of things. So when I graduated college, I was like, okay, I gotta find somewhere to land.
Speaker 1 00:03:15 Well, let’s talk about that because, um, I saw your, I saw your bio and so you studied biology in college at, what was the,
Speaker 2 00:03:22 What was it, Cameron University?
Speaker 1 00:03:23 Cameron University, home of the Fighting Aggies. Aggies Fair.
Speaker 2 00:03:27 Like the, it was formerly an agricultural school.
Speaker 1 00:03:30 And, and so you trained as a biologist and your first job out of college is as a chemist, <laugh>, is that right? Kind
Speaker 2 00:03:37 Of, yes.
Speaker 1 00:03:37 Well, tell me about that.
Speaker 2 00:03:39 Uh, so when I moved to Tallahassee, I, you know, one of the first jobs I got was at a private lab here in, in Tallahassee that serviced, um, a lot of the municipalities and things like that. Uh, so I just kind of took the first science job, obviously, that I could, you know, get my hands on. And we did all of like, nutrients and biochemical oxygen demand, you know, bods and fetal coliforms and all of those types of analyses in that laboratory. So I learned a lot. Yeah. Yes.
Speaker 1 00:04:08 So you start in a chemistry lab, and then you get your first job at d e p. What year was that?
Speaker 2 00:04:14 98. 1998. And
Speaker 1 00:04:16 That’s the biology section? Yes. Your first job at d e P was in the biology section, right? Correct. Yeah. And you said it was 1998? Yes. And you were a bug picker as you put it. Um, what on earth is a bug picker?
Speaker 2 00:04:34 Yes. Um, well, uh, one of the types of samples that they take into the laboratory is something that’s collected out in the field. Um, and it consists of basically leaves and grass and sand and all those types of things. But what they’re really trying to get at are the macroinvertebrates or the little bugs that live in the streams, in the lakes, uh, because those organisms are, they integrate water quality over time. So it gives you a, a better picture of what’s going on in the system as far as water quality conditions than maybe just taking a one-time sample and getting kind of that snapshot. The thought is that the macroinvertebrates, you know, give you that picture or that, you know, picture of water quality health over time. So my job was to sort through the leaves and the dirt and all that kind of stuff, and pick out the bugs that then we handed off to folks who would do identifications because, uh, certain ones are good bugs and certain ones are indicators of maybe poor water quality condition. So that was kind of what I did. What
Speaker 1 00:05:38 Would be the, the application at that point for that, that data in terms of the type of bug?
Speaker 2 00:05:44 Yeah, so the, um, the stream condition index was a, or still is, uh, a way to tell you which streams are healthy. So they have a, a healthy ecosystem, meaning that the water quality is healthy. And if you had poor organisms, you know, organisms that could tolerate water quality or water pollution, um, then those would be streams that, you know, would, might, might get targeted for, say, restoration or those types of a, uh, activities.
Speaker 1 00:06:12 You move from there to the watershed assessment section. Is that right? That’s correct, yeah. And what do, what, what was the change there for you in terms of what you did on a day-to-day
Speaker 2 00:06:22 Basis? Yeah, so that’s, like I just said, it’s kind of the next step, right? So we’re, you know, collecting the data in the laboratory, we’re analyzing it and turning out the results, and then those results, you know, end up in actions. Um, and so by moving to the watershed assessment section, that was really what we did, is we took that data and did an evaluation. You know, we looked at the water quality data, we looked at the cis or the stream condition index samples, and, uh, did an assessment to evaluate all the different waters in the state. Um, really that’s like the basis for, uh, water quality restoration in the state. Um,
Speaker 1 00:07:00 Okay. And so you’re, you’re literally taking it is what I wanted to, to get to, which was the long train of how you go from looking at, uh, some water body or natural system and saying, is there something wrong with it? If there is, what is it? And then, uh, once you know what it is, how do you fix it? That’s right. Uh, and so you’re at, you’re at step two, but we get to I think, step three in the process, which is by the time I met you and when I met you, you were the director of, uh, what’s affectionately known as deer. Yes. But it’s the division of Environmental Assessment and
Speaker 2 00:07:35 Restoration.
Speaker 1 00:07:35 And Restoration. Yes. Uh, my apo, well, ours gotta come from somewhere <laugh>. Um, and it’s, I consider it, and somebody may argue with me, but they’re wrong. Um, but I consider that one of the four hardest jobs in the entire department. Uh, which I mean, it’s, it’s a tough one, right? Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:07:53 It’s definitely a lot to take on. Um, you know, we’re trying to identify waters, um, you know, some people want their water identified as impaired and others don’t want that water body identified as impaired <laugh>. So you’re always kind of battling that, and we’re trying to do it for the entire state, you know, so it was a big job, um, and trying to develop, you know, the right water quality restoration strategies, um, cuz you know, one size doesn’t fit all. It was definitely challenging, but I, I really loved the challenge when I was there.
Speaker 1 00:08:24 And it’s, it’s a more, that’s more, uh, public facing
Speaker 2 00:08:28 Absolutely.
Speaker 1 00:08:29 Farther the drop, especially. It’s gotta be weird for na people who do science for a living to be in the position where now you’re the, you’re very public facing and I
Speaker 2 00:08:38 Got very used to public speaking in that job. Yeah, absolutely.
Speaker 1 00:08:41 And, and so, okay, so we’ve identified, basically you worked in all, you know, all three of the major steps there. Uh, but talk me through the process. So take a, take a water body or some natural system and talk me through that beginning, the beginning to the end. And may, and maybe it’s one that, you know, over your, over your time, you may have seen, you know, from the beginning to, to bmap implementation or base management action plan implementation.
Speaker 2 00:09:06 Yeah. Oh, wow. Um, there are several. I mean, I could just, I’ll, I’ll touch on we’ll, Callis, since that’s really, uh, how we kind, it’s good. That’s best. Yeah, that’s a good one. Right. Um, I have, you know, we monitored COLA for years back, you know, when I was in the biology section, we had routine monitoring. We did out there on a quarterly basis. We were collecting water and biology and looking at plants and algae and all of the different ecosystems and trying to do a really good assessment of what was going on. Um, all of that data got used by one of our modelers at D E P who developed a, a watershed model, um, to determine the total maximum daily load or the, the maximum amount of nutrients that that system, you know, could, uh, assimilate or use and still be healthy. And then, uh, went into the basin management action plan development phase where we take that TMDL target and determine what are the best activities and projects and all of the different things that can be done in the watershed to restore it to a healthy condition. And, and actually COLA is a system that I’ve seen change over my time here in Tallahassee from when I first moved here in 1994. So that one’s been really, you know, kind of fun and interesting to, to see through the whole process. Um, ac you know, the b m a’s been in place now for several years. You, you’re very familiar with that. And, um, we are starting to see improvements in water quality. So that’s been a, a real, you know, like I said, a good one to watch.
Speaker 1 00:10:39 Tell me about the, the, the development of the TMDL itself. And you mentioned a model and, and models come in for, uh, a certain amount of criticism, and I understand it’s cuz we’re, it’s not, it’s not measurements like when you’re doing your, the, the watershed assessment side of things or Right. Or bug picking <laugh> where you’re, you’re looking at real, you something real, right? Uh, a real measurement where you can say, okay, this is what was happening before and this is what, uh, say the, the total nitrogen level is, you know, at the vent now, um, the advent of the meric nutrient criteria kind of put, uh, a solid line mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, in that process, most of them are what 0.35 milligrams per liter. We’re talking about
Speaker 2 00:11:25 Nitrogen for springs
Speaker 1 00:11:26 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? For springs mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and some are a little different, but not much different. Tell me about the differences, how, how you des determine the differences there when you look at, uh, say we’ll call spring versus one that has maybe a, a lower tmd.
Speaker 2 00:11:42 Yeah. Well, so we kind of, you know, when COLA was developed, we didn’t have numeric nutrient criteria quite yet, but it ended up, you know, cuz it actually has a lower level than the, than the numeric nutrient criteria. But we knew when we developed numeric nutrient criteria that we needed something, we needed a number to put, you know, as a starting place. And then when you go into TMDL development, you’re really looking at the specifics, right? Because as numeric nutrient criteria were developed, it was, like I said, we’re trying to cover the whole state, right? Um, so you do the best you can to develop the appropriate criteria that would apply, you know, for all streams or all springs in the state. And then as you do a tmdl, you’re really looking at, well, what are the specific uses, uh, land uses or activities in the watershed and trying to establish the appropriate number for that particular water body. And that’s really, you know, that’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, I think.
Speaker 1 00:12:40 And so you, you start with the model, you start with your total maximum daily load. And as you’re moving, uh, toward the BM map, obviously you ha you mean models are, you know, are predictive in nature. But, uh, I continue to hear, um, and I know that Moda Homan has talked a lot about it in public, uh, venues, which is adaptive management. Can you tell me, when you look at something that looks like a hard and fast number, right? And you’re doing restoration of a place like, uh, we’ll springs in the we’ll river, uh, where does adaptive management fit into that picture?
Speaker 2 00:13:15 Right? Um, you know, so in a basin management action plan, you know, as, as, as we’ve developed that program over time and, and just in literature and research that has been done, you know, certain activities that are gonna have beneficial nutrient reductions, right? What that number is, is not, you know, super well defined. It’s not black and white, but you know, you’re gonna get a reduction. You have some idea of what that reduction will consist of. And so as you are applying those activities and those restoration strategies in the bmap, you’re also monitoring and saying, you know, is, is that matching what I expect to see? And so if it’s not, then more may need to be done to, to achieve that tmdl or maybe less, you know, maybe you’re getting a, a better benefit from an activity than what was predicted or what was known at the time. And that’s really what I think, you know, what what is meant by adaptive management, you’re trying, you know, the goal is to achieve the tmdl, get the healthy condition, and you’re doing the best you can to get there as time goes on.
Speaker 1 00:14:20 And so the B M A P process has come under some criticism. I mean, I don’t know, have you ever dealt with a bmap that wasn’t criticized <laugh>? I haven’t, I haven’t heard of that one yet, but no. But in terms of, uh, it being somehow inadequate for the task at hand and you, and you and you just, you know, articulated very well what the task at hand is, which is restoration of that water body, right? Um, and so folks have said, well, gosh, the bmap the, the BMAP itself, uh, or the process doesn’t lend itself to real restoration. Um, uh, personally I believe it’s the best tool that we have at the moment for, for determining how to restore these water bodies. But the issue seems to be the same thing. It is for almost everything in, in life in government, which is it’s a time and money issue.
Speaker 2 00:15:10 Absolutely.
Speaker 1 00:15:11 Yeah. Uh, so I mean, what’s your opinion on the, you, you’re now, do you, do you have, and you do data for a living now, is it, is it still the best thing that we have available, um, in the toolbox, um, given that we have adaptive management, given that we’re always constantly looking at whether we’re doing it right or not, right. Um, what do you think about all
Speaker 2 00:15:36 That? I do honestly. Um, and I have, you know, engaged in other states across the US and, you know, our B M A P program is above and beyond what I have seen in other states. Um, they ha don’t have near the research or resources that we have. And, and I know it’s still a slow process. It’s a slog, you know, it takes time. I mean, but we have to realize too, it took, it took decades to get these water bodies in these conditions, and it’s gonna take decades to get them back. Right. Um, but I, I do think that it is a good process and, and, and as you just said, with the adaptive management, it allows us to adjust and learn over time and make ’em better, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, the OLA B map is what, 10? Well, no, it’s a lot more older than that. 15 years old now, you know, almost. And so we’re gonna learn over time and be able to improve, uh, the things that go into future b m maps and, and adjust the, the ones that have been on the books for a while.
Speaker 1 00:16:38 Do you think it, when you look at, and, uh, you know, obviously I haven’t spent as much time digging into, uh, springs and say, uh, north Central Florida and, you know, the Santa Fe River mm-hmm. <affirmative> or, uh, the Gainesville area or, uh, you know, east Central Florida. But I have seen what we’ve got, what we have here is that, are there other places where, where you look at and say, gosh, we’re, we’re actually pretty close. I mean, I saw how it worked for Waca. It’s no secret how, you know, it worked. You have city of Tallahassee, um, upgrades their wastewater treatment facility, right? And you do a whole bunch of conversions of septic tanks to, to central sewer to then treat it, you know, to that high, that higher level to keep more and more of that nitrogen out of the water. It was expensive.
Speaker 1 00:17:27 I mean, I think, I think the total right at this point is probably somewhere between 250, $300 million now. Right? And you were a huge part of, of the middle to the present there mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I remember those conversations that, that we had, which gosh, we’re so close to this. Yeah. Wouldn’t it be cool to see that happen? Uh, but it was, but there was no magic to it. It was, this is how much it cost That’s right. To go in, abandon someone’s septic tank and convert it to, to central sewer. Do you see that same possibility elsewhere, given the constraints that we have of, of time? The, you know, the other, the other variable is, is money, right?
Speaker 2 00:18:05 Um, certainly, you know, it takes commitment. Um, and we were really fortunate here on, you know, in the McCullough basin that the city of Tallahassee and McCullah County, I mean, really, you know, put their nose to the grindstone and came up with some, some good projects and activities to really make a difference. And, and that does happen in other watersheds. Um, but I, I, you know, this might sound strange, but in a way, Wakus, unique <laugh>, um, because we had a limited number of stakeholders, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and in some of like the north central areas, you have a, a much bigger stakeholder group. And so getting everyone on the same page with the same commitment, you know, to the same goal can be challenging. Absolutely. Um, but it’s certainly possible. And my, you know, I think conversations you and I had in the past is like, man, it would be so great if we could get wakulla and like just show it off to everybody. Like say, look, when you do the commitment, yes, it’s expensive, but man, when you do it, it can work, right? Yeah. Um, so I’m really hoping that that will still happen, you know, even though you and I have moved on. But, um, you know, I think it, I think it, can
Speaker 1 00:19:17 I keep, I still keep an eye on it, I think
Speaker 2 00:19:19 There No, yeah, me
Speaker 1 00:19:19 Too. But I think, uh, I think you’re right. Is there, let me ask you this, because the, some of it was harder than other parts. I mean, spending nearly $200 million on an upgraded, uh, wastewater treatment facility is a big deal. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but there’s another a hundred odd million dollars that we’re talking about there. And much of it is in a place that many people thought weren’t the types that want, would want to move forward with these things. Uh, and Will Cull County has been an incredible partner. Yes. Part of that ease though, is partly having a good governance, a good county administrator who’s willing to push things forward. But there’s an advantage there as well, which is when you look at the requirements from the Springs Restoration Protection Program mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you’re looking at match requirements. And so if you’re looking at a place that is not considered a small disadvantaged community, and we’ll call it to be considered one of those Right.
Speaker 1 00:20:20 Or ready community, it’s harder for those middle places where you look at, they’re not completely, you’re not completely poor mm-hmm. <affirmative> or disadvantaged, but they can’t afford to come up with 50% of 200 million. Yes. Perhaps, uh, for the solution. What do you think about the, you know, the, the notion of are we, are we approaching that the wrong, the, the wrong way? Or is it, do you think it’s good or bad in different public policy to say, if it’s our, if it’s, if it’s our priority, if it’s the state’s priority to see this water body, um, recovered, why rely on a local government’s ability to do that from perhaps an incredibly limited budget? Maybe we should just take these, these things on ourselves. What do you think about that? I know it’s a, it’s a difficult question to ask and it’s difficult, you know, to, to propose. Well, but you see a lot of things get stunted because of
Speaker 2 00:21:11 That, right? Absolutely. Yeah, for sure. Uh, you know, I think the governor and the federal government has done, you know, created a huge investment to try and perhaps help those types of communities. Um, although they still struggle because they don’t necessarily have the resources to do the grant applications, and they, you know, they haven’t dealt with those types of programs before. So that’s certainly a struggle. And to me, that’s where I’ve always felt like they could use the help, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like someone who could help them get through the process. Cuz you know, it’s, it’s government and it’s a process. Um, but it is, they certainly do get left behind, but I think part of that match has always been the state can’t do it all. Like we can give them all the money in the world and we can upgrade the facility, right? But if they don’t, again, have that commitment to, to maintain it, to ensure that it’s operating the way it’s supposed to, the, you know, to, to make sure those things go into the future, we’re gonna be right back where we were. Right? They’ll have a new facility, but it might not be functioning the way it’s supposed to. So I, I, I do think it’s a responsibility of everyone, um, honestly. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:22:18 No, I think that, I think that’s perfectly, you know, perfectly valid opinion. Um, and so you’re with a company called sas. Now, is that also an, because you’re all scientists in database? Like is SAS also an acronym, I assume, or,
Speaker 2 00:22:31 Um, it probably used to be the company’s been in place for like 47 years. I think it’s used to stand for statistical something or other, but <laugh> now, um, because it, that’s what it is. It’s, it’s a statistical software, uh, package essentially. Um, but they dropped the acronym. I mean, they, they use the acronym now. They dropped whatever it stood four years ago. So
Speaker 1 00:22:51 Well tell me, well be beyond that. Yeah. <laugh>, uh, which is not, not
Speaker 2 00:22:55 That
Speaker 1 00:22:56 Interesting. I was like, poke at you a little bit about an acronym. Um, uh, tell me about what you’re up to at sass and are there things that, that you’re involved with now in the creation of, of statistical tools that may, may help us do better ATS restoring some of these places?
Speaker 2 00:23:17 Yeah. Um, so I, I’ve been with SA SaaS just a short time now, um, a little over a year. And like I said, we’re, we’re really a software and data analytics company, right? And we do a lot of work with state and local governments trying to help them do, you know, do those things. Uh, with regards to water quality, that’s kind of where they brought me on, um, is kind of to be a subject matter expert in, in water quality data. We’ve been doing work here in Florida. We’re, um, you know, trying to get other, uh, state and local governments across the US on board and, and having some really good conversations with them. And it’s, it’s so interesting because, uh, a lot of environmental agencies operate very similarly. You know, they’re, their data is siloed, they’re, they don’t have resources, you know, to do all of the data preparation and analysis.
Speaker 2 00:24:09 I mean, it’s just, you know, really, really similar. But I think, uh, definitely here in Florida and some of the work we’ve done with the D E P could be really useful. Um, one of the things we’ve been looking at is, is a septic tank susceptibility tool, uh, to help identify areas throughout the state that are, um, you know, more susceptible to septic tank pollution, right? Yeah. And it’s looking at not just the age and density, but also some of the geologic, you know, formations and things like that. Um, and trying to give them a tool that, you know, makes that very simple for them to identify areas throughout the state where maybe they should be prioritizing some of these, uh, conversions, you know, to sewer in those types of
Speaker 1 00:24:53 Areas. And that’s incredibly important data to have. We have two and a half plus million. Yeah. South Tanks in Florida. If you were to replace all those, you’re looking at 40 plus billion dollars <laugh>. Right.
Speaker 2 00:25:07 But not all of them probably need to be replaced. Right.
Speaker 1 00:25:09 That’s the, that’s the, that’s the point is I think there were, the, the big mistake in the legislation, I think it was 2010 and 11, uh, in the septic tank inspection program, really rested on the failure to recognize that not all septic tanks are created alike, and not all places are. That’s right. Uh, are created the same. And so, uh, how far are you in that, that analysis?
Speaker 2 00:25:32 Yeah, so we’ve, um, started it, we, we actually kind of put together a, a draft index kind of score, um, with, uh, university of Florida at the time and some, some other septic technology, you know, people, people who have a lot of knowledge in that, that expertise. And, um, we’re actually working on updating it right now and kind of presenting that back to d E P to say, Hey, you know, we, we really think this would be a useful tool for you. Um, you know, and trying to make those adjustments that they, that they, you know, would put it into place. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:26:02 Free plug, uh, <laugh> if you’re listening to D e p. Yeah,
Speaker 2 00:26:06 Exactly.
Speaker 1 00:26:07 Um, sounds, it sounds, it, it, it’s, and it’s something
Speaker 2 00:26:10 That, to me, when I saw it, I was just like, wow, if we could do that, that would be really useful. <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:26:16 I, I, I agree. I mean, we spent some time both at the Water Management district and sense looking at these things and saying, what is it going to cost? How do we get there? How do we put, uh, a, a better, a clear vision of where point B is? And I don’t think that, I don’t think that is clear at the moment. Yeah, that’s right. And we’re moving forward with bmas, which are great. You know, the, I think as I said before, it’s like, and I stand by it. It’s like, I think the product is great. Great. I think the, the folks behind it are doing the best they can, but they can’t be everything to, to everyone. I think that’s where the, the benefit of involving, um, private sector, especially folks like, you know, SaaS and others that, you know, that can, that can do those analytics. But I, I, I hope that, I hope that it works.
Speaker 2 00:27:00 Yeah, me too. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:27:02 So whether it’s in government or outside, and obviously I think you spent most of your time in government.
Speaker 2 00:27:08 I am a public servant. <laugh>. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:27:10 Yes, definitely. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Speaker 2 00:27:14 You know, I honestly, I’m, I’m really, I’ve, I’ve thought about this a lot. Um, I, I’m really proud of the work I did at, at DP and Endear specifically, and the fact that I started as a bug picker. And, um, they almost didn’t wanna hire me as like a permanent employee. And I became the director <laugh>, uh, to me as a pretty good accomplishment. But I, I mean, I learned so much along the way from so many smart people, including yourself. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, that really helped me. Um, and I’m, I’m really proud of that. Like, I, I wanna be an advocate for Florida’s water and environment and, and really the us which is why I, I kind of took the job with sass.
Speaker 1 00:27:51 That’s exciting. They’re, to go back to SAS for a second, they’re based out of where? North Carolina. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And, but they’re stretching in all, all over the place now, not just, and not just in the United States. Right,
Speaker 2 00:28:02 Right. They’re, they’re actually an international company. And I was just talking with someone yesterday who’s, you know, trying to do some projects in Europe, you know, with folks, you know, they’re, they’re doing all kinds of water quality things also.
Speaker 1 00:28:13 Yeah. That’s, I mean, that’s exciting. Yeah. But, you know, but o obviously it’s like I’m, you know, more partial to your work at, at, at Deer. Yeah. But, uh, but it’s exciting to see what the future holds. Um, talking about the future, are you optimistic about the future of the environment in water in Florida?
Speaker 2 00:28:31 Well, I certainly feel like we’re, um, moving, you know, have been moving, I should say, have been moving in the right direction. Um, you know, I know when I first started working at D E p, not many people knew much about the TMDL program, or certainly Bmap s didn’t even exist when I started there in 1998. And, uh, so over time, you know, it really has become a very well-known issue, not just in Florida, but across the us, you know, that we have water quality problems, um, which is unfortunate, but, uh, you know, you know, that we’re known across the us, but, um, I think we really are headed in the right direction. And, um, as I mentioned, you know, seeing Wakulla change over time, and I, I’m hoping to see it, you know, back to the, the clear, you know, waters that it was, and, um, not seeing algae so much.
Speaker 1 00:29:22 I mean, but, and I think you mentioned it twice now, <laugh>, um, that it is better. He, you know, here you’ve seen other places mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and Juxta juxtaposing, you know, Florida’s situation, you know, with other folks, we don’t get a chance to see, we, you know, a lot of times, right. Uh, the pessimist in us, you know, looks at, looks at something like, gosh, this is, this is screwed up. Is this, you know, is this getting worse? Is this our fate as a state? Um, but you’re saying, and you’ve had the opportunity to see, you know, uh, probably at least several other places now. Yeah. And you still stick by. It’s like, Hey, I think we’re, you know, we’re, we’re heading in the right direction. I mean, it may be the pace may be slower than some of us would like, but
Speaker 2 00:30:01 Yeah, I think so. You know, this is a personal opinion and which a lot of this is, but I think our struggle in Florida is that balance between growth and protection mm-hmm. <affirmative> or, you know, restoration. Um, obviously, you know, we want the state to grow and, and be prosperous and, you know, we like people to come here because it is a beautiful state mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, we have lots to offer, but it’s always that balance of, you know, when’s enough enough or, or doing things the right way. That’s the, that’s the thing that I’m hoping we’re even moving further towards, is, um, when we’re doing growth, let’s do it the right way, um, so that we don’t have, you know, this continual issue. Um, we can see restoration, we can see the restoration stick. Right, right, right.
Speaker 1 00:30:46 Yeah. Since you’re, since you are in fact the optimist, I’m not, I’m not gonna ask you my, I am my pat other question, which is, uh, what keeps you up at night? Um, but I will say, I will say this <laugh>, uh, I mentioned before that, that I, you know, and I don’t BS about it when I say that, that the Deere director job is, is one of the hardest, I mean, it, it’s probably, in my mind it’s probably top top two. But, um, there are a few other ones in there that, you know, that would give you a run for your money and that Sure. And that, um, but it’s gotta be, it, it seems like it’s the kind of position that it’s super important and it’s super important to have people that, uh, love what they’re doing and, uh, are smart and people that get after it, but it doesn’t feel like it’s something you can do for forever. Yeah. Um, because it just takes it, it takes a
Speaker 2 00:31:33 Toll. Takes this toll. Sure.
Speaker 1 00:31:34 Yeah. And so from that perspective, I mean, you get to do these great things. You just don’t have to be in that pressure cooker, you know, so much. So from that perspective, it’s, yeah. Um, so it’s a, it’s a good thing. Is there, other than when you, you mentioned growth management, is there something else environmentally related that you say, gosh, I wish we, I wish we did this thing better, or is that it, or, and that can be the answer is, yeah.
Speaker 2 00:31:58 You know, it is that, but you, you know, it, it’s, it’s varied in its components, right? We need to do storm water better and, and they’re trying to, you know, upgrade or update the rules mm-hmm. <affirmative> so we can do storm water better. You know, we, we need to do septic tanks better. We’re trying to do that as well. Um, it’s all of those components that we need to do better as we’re growing, um, you know, fertilizer, whatever it is. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, in certain areas there are more vulnerable to it, you know, we need to make sure that those things are in place so we’re not here again. Um, like I, you know, there’s lots of good science that that’s out there and people are continuing to study it, so I think we can get there. I am an optimist. Uh,
Speaker 1 00:32:35 You
Speaker 2 00:32:35 Picked up on that, huh? Well,
Speaker 1 00:32:36 Good. Yeah. <laugh>. Um, no, I think it with, you know, with folks like you on the job, I, you know, I see it, I see it happen in the future myself, although, uh, I’m less of a natural optimist than you are. Juli Espy <laugh>. Uh, what advice would you give young people who are just entering or are interested in entering the environmental field?
Speaker 2 00:32:57 Yeah, gosh, I mean, I love it so much. Um, I do think, you know, you’re not gonna get into it for the pay. That’s probably the first thing everyone will tell you. Um, but it’s, it’s very rewarding. Um, if you, you know, you, if you like the environment, you like to, you know, to go out and enjoy it and you wanna protect it, there are lots of ways to do that. You know, not just water quality, but habitat restoration and, you know, all of the different components and all of those things together. I, I’m, I’m always trying to encourage young people to study science. Um, sometimes I get ’em, sometimes I don’t. I have a, a, a niece that I’ve, I’m always giving her gifts that have some science theme, you know, and she enjoys it. So maybe I’ve, uh, indoctrinated her, hopefully
Speaker 1 00:33:43 <laugh>. I, I hope so. And, and I saw a, a Facebook post, um, from a friend the other day who’s, uh, I think his gra his granddaughter and her partner won the, the local science fair.
Speaker 2 00:33:54 Oh, love it.
Speaker 1 00:33:55 Love it. Having to do with, you know, nutrient pollution and water bodies love even more. And I’m thinking to myself, I’m like, there you go. There, there
Speaker 2 00:34:01 You go. You
Speaker 1 00:34:01 Go. That’s right. They’re coming along. Yeah. So it’s ex it’s exciting. Yeah. Um, how can folks reach you if they wanna learn more about what you’re up to and how you might be able to help ’em? You know, I, you know, obviously I don’t work for Sass is like, but uh, you do. Yeah. And if folks wanna get in touch with you about that, how do they do that?
Speaker 2 00:34:18 Yeah, I mean by email, julie dot espy sas.com. Um, I’m available anytime.
Speaker 1 00:34:25 That sounds good. And I’ll put it on, uh, the episode notes as well so people can. Julie Espy, thank you so much for joining me.
Speaker 2 00:34:32 Thanks Brad. I had a great time. Appreciate it.
Speaker 1 00:34:34 A huge thank you once again for Julie Espy for being here. You’ve been listening to Water for Fighting Podcast. You can reach me at fl water pod gmail.com or on Twitter and Instagram at FL Water Pod with your comments and suggestions for who and or what you’d like to know more about. Thanks again to Florida Water advocates for sponsoring this episode of Water for Fighting Production. This podcast is by Lonely Fox Studios. Thanks to Carl, so for making the best of what he had to work with and to David Barfield for the amazing graphics and technical assistance. A very special thank you goes out to Bow Spring from the Bow Spring Band for giving permission to use his music for this podcast. The song is called Doing Work for Free, and you should check out the Band Live or wherever amazing music is sold. I’m your host, Brett Ciphers. Join me next week for another amazing conversation with someone who has helped shape water policy and the Sunshine State. Until then, keep your whiskey close and your water closer.

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