Water management reform doesn’t have to wait for the Legislature. The “Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act” which passed the Florida Senate, but did not get even a hearing in the House, is an example. If Governor Rick Scott wanted to take major steps to fix spring problems, he could implement major elements of the “springs bill” with existing statutory authority:
- The intent statements in the bill about the significance of springs? That could become a part of the FDEP Water Resource Implementation Rule. (The rule also could incorporate key definitions in the bill like “Outstanding Florida Spring,” “spring protection and management zones,” “spring run,” “springshed” and “spring vent.”)
- Adopt a list of “Outstanding Florida Springs”? Again within the existing power of FDEP.
- Require that minimum flows and levels be adopted by 2015 (unless extended)? Yes, FDEP could require the WMDs to do so or even adopt the MFLs itself.
- Adopt at the same time as the MFL a related prevention or recovery strategy? Already in statute and in 62-40.
- Review existing spring MFLs by 2017? Already within FDEP authority too accomplish or require the WMDs to do.
- Delineate “spring protection and management zones” by 2015? A job that FDEP could do on its own and that requires no statutory authorization.
- Keep new wastewater disposal and hazardous water facilities out of such zones? Possible if FDEP is willing to adopt that policy.
- Complete water quality assessments for major springs by July 1, 2017? The DEP could change priorities in the existing statutory program, if it wanted to do so.
- Adopt rules on the priorities for using available future funds for projects to improve springs water quality? No new authority needed.
- Submit a report by July 1, 2015 on progress in protecting springs? No legislative authorization required.
Inaction on the crises facing Florida’s iconic springs is not necessary. It is a deliberate choice being made by the Scott Administration.