Coalition says Florida water bill fails Floridians

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Following is a press release regarding the recent water bill passed in Tallahassee. Further example of our lawmakers listening to money and industry instead of environmentalists and caretakers of our water resources. So many water experts have said the simple solution is less withdrawals, fewer nitrates, and to require users to pay for the water.  Scroll
For Immediate Release:
Contact Cris Costello, Sierra Club, 941-914-0421 (cell)

Coalition says Florida water bill fails Floridians,
Urges Governor to veto and calls for rewrite

(Tallahassee, FL) The Legislature’s 2016 Water Bill will do nothing to save the 2,776 impaired water bodies in the state, said a coalition of water activists and experts Friday. They called for Governor Rick Scott to veto it and send it back for further work. The water bill was passed in lightning fashion, within the first few days of the two-month session.

Advocates described the industry-backed bill as continuing the lax standards that allowed Florida’s lakes, river, springs and estuaries to become some of the most impaired waters in the nation.

“We don’t believe that this bill will restore Florida’s beautiful springs in the foreseeable future,” said Robert Palmer, legislative chair of the Florida Springs Council. “If the Governor signs the bill, he will be enshrining the status quo of slow-flowing, algae-choked springs.”

“This bill is 134 pages mandating reports, rearranging committees and requiring studies. It adds no new powers to fill current loopholes in water quality or water quantity programs,” said Victoria Tschinkel, Vice-Chair of 1000 Friends of Florida and former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Regulation. Tschinkel said the Governor had been misled into thinking the bills would reverse that course, but that there was still time to rewrite them.

“The St. Johns River and too many of Florida’s rivers, springs and lakes are sick with excess pollution,” said Lisa Rinaman of St. Johns Riverkeeper. “Unfortunately, the 2016 water bills further threaten the health of Florida’s waters and Florida’s future.”

The bill is flawed in specific ways:

Fails to prioritize water conservation, and instead relies on alternative water supply projects.
Contains loopholes which will, in effect, exempt many agricultural and other major water users, from water use monitoring.
Dis-incentivizes Water Management Districts from denying consumptive use permits.
Allows Water Management Districts to unilaterally transfer water from other districts.
Requires the legislature to ratify water quality rules thereby delaying action even further.

“Over the past two and a half years of working on this bill it became clear that leadership was not going to accept new strong standards and insisted instead that all we needed to do was to use the tools already in the toolbox,” said David Cullen, lobbyist for Sierra Club Florida. “The state has used those tools for decades and the Florida DEP website lists 2,776 impaired water bodies. So we offered a solid package of amendments that would have sharpened those tools. They were rejected. As a result, we have no confidence the bill will improve water quality or quantity and ask Gov. Scott to veto it.”

Last month, Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration campaign coalition partners delivered a letter signed by 106 organizations and businesses to Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, calling for real protection of the state’s imperiled waterways. The letter was also sent to all 160 of Florida’s state legislators urging them to amend SB 552 and HB 7005. In addition, Florida Springs Council (FSC) sent its own letter requesting amendments. None of the recommendations were adopted.

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