Florida Springs Council Addresses Weak Water Bill

ied-up springs3 white springs
A Mismanaged Florida Spring. This is Where We Are Headed!

Much has been written lately about the water bills (SB 552, HB 7005) currently running their course in the Legislature and which are destined to pass because they favor industry and the heavy water users who do not worry about conserving this resource.  Christopher Curry  has written an excellent article in the Gainesville Sun on Jan. 2, 2016.  Here he outlines the wishes of the Florida Springs Council, a consortium of 35 organizations whose 100,000+ represents environmental organizations.

The Council’s full list of amendment recommendations can be seen at this link, which are in the the letter they sent to Gardiner and Crisifulli.  The sad ending to Curry’s article reveals the not-surprising attitude of our elected officials toward this legislation.  Please read the logical and reasonable recommendations of the informed and caring Council members, and if you agree with them, please contact your representatives in Tallahasse and tell them your thoughts regarding this important issue.  There is no time to waste.Scroll

Florida Springs Council again pushes for stricter water bill

By Christopher Curry
Staff writer

Published: Friday, January 1, 2016 at 4:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 1, 2016 at 4:20 p.m.

With the start of the session in Tallahassee approaching, the Florida Springs Council is again pushing state leaders for more strict water legislation.

In a letter sent Tuesday to State Senate President Andy Gardiner R-Orlando and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli R-Merritt Island, the Gainesville-based environmental group reiterated its objection to the current water policy bills expected to go to a vote in both houses early in the session and again urged a slew of amendments.

“There are some springs-related provisions in the bill which are worthy of support,” the environmental group wrote. “Overall, however, FSC does not believe that the pending water bills would restore Florida’s beleaguered springs in the foreseeable future, and we would therefore only support the bill if significant amendments were adopted on the Senate and House floors.”

The group has pushed for 17 changes and highlighted four priorities:

+ Metering all permitted groundwater withdrawals of 100,000 gallons or more

+ Requiring water management districts to come up with an estimate of the maximum amount of groundwater available for withdrawal within the jurisdiction of their district

+ Authorizing an independent study on the potential of establishing water fees on withdrawals

+ Selecting a “restoration focus spring” that will have its flow and water quality restored in 15 years.

In early December, the Florida Springs Council and dozens of other statewide and local environmental groups, including 1000 Friends of Florida, the Sierra Club, Our Santa Fe River, the Ichetucknee Alliance and Florida Defenders of the Environment, had simultaneous press conferences at Gardiner and Crisafulli district offices and in Gainesville to push for changes to the proposed water policy.

Some other changes they urged then included:

+ Inserting deadlines for setting the total maximum daily loads that cap the acceptable amount of nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorous and other pollutants for water bodies and establishing Basin Management Action Plans that include strategies to reduce the flow of pollutants from land to water bodies. In the current bill, those BMAP deadlines only apply to areas near designated outstanding springs.

+ Accelerating the timeline for meeting the minimum flows and levels, or healthy water flows for rivers and springs and total maximum daily loads of water bodies from the current bill, which allows 20 to 32 years.

+ Changing the standard for minimum flows and levels for rivers and springs from the current language, which defines them as the point from which any additional groundwater withdrawals would be “significantly harmful,” to the more stringent merely “harmful” standard. Last year’s Senate water policy bill originally had the harmful threshold but “significantly” was added back at the urging of industry groups.

Several environmental groups have also objected to language in the current bills stating that any time a water management district denies an application for a groundwater pumping permit on the basis that the withdrawal would push a river or spring below its adopted minimum flow level, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will review the district to update its regional water supply plan and require an update if the plan is deficient. The time-consuming and expensive process of updating those plans usually takes place every five years.

The new language says the review will take place because those water supply plans are intended to make sure enough water is available for all existing and future “reasonable-beneficial uses and natural systems.”

At the event in Gainesville, Frank Jackalone, the Florida staff director for the Sierra Club, said that language was another example of the FDEP exerting more control over water management districts to “pressure districts already strapped for resources into approving permits.”

Gardiner’s office responded to the concerns with a statement that said in part:

“While President Gardiner is happy to receive and review continued input from dedicated stakeholders who share his concern for Florida’s environment, he believes the Senate has reached consensus on this important legislation and he looks forward to bringing it to the Senate floor for a vote during the first week of the 2016 Legislative Session.”

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