Published: Nov 16, 2010 12:00 AM EST
Updated: Nov 15, 2010 7:04 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The federal government is delaying the implementation of new rules on releasing nutrients into Florida waters. The Environmental Protection Agency is granting a 15-month delay for the new rules to take effect. They are very controversial, pitting environmentalists against farmers and other business interests.

"I am disappointed because we know the water is polluted, and this is just going to cost more as time goes by. We need to act now, today, not 15 months from now," said Rae Ann Wessel, of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. "We need to protect our tourism, which depends on clean water. Farmers and others are grossly over-stating the cost of the rules.

The EPA wants to impose a numeric limit on nutrients, primarly nitrogen and phosphorous, that flow into lakes, rivers and streams. The rules would require business and farmers to buy new equipment to measure the nutrients, and prevent them from running off into the water.

"Any time that EPA will grant us, is a good positive thing," said Ron Hamel, of the Gulf Citrus Association. "These rules will hurt farmers, they could cost up to 8-billion dollars a yer statewide, according to one study we have seen. That's the cost to agriculture and other businesses.  We are not sure our members can or would implement the rules."

House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon said he will ask the Fl. Legislature to over-ride the EPA actions, and prevent the implementation of the rules, at any time. "This is an over-reach of the federal government, and it intrudes on property rights and the on the right of our state to set our own water quality standards," Cannon said.

The state and EPA have battled for years over the water quality rules. The EPA says it is delaying the rules in part because of the poor economy. It also says, it wants all parties to have time to fully understand the rules and how to implement them.