Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

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OSFR Speaks Against Weak Water Bill

The Senate subcommittee today passed unanimously a  bill purporting to protect the Florida springs.  Sen. Charlie Dean’s bill was opposed by environmental groups seeking to protect our waters.  That the bill was supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida is indicative that its nature is slanted more toward industry than preservation.  Some environmental groups are anxious to work with Sen. Dean to beef up the bill and give more protection to our water resources.  If the proper amendments were added these groups might support this water bill.

“Springs bill clears hurdle despite environmental concerns”

The Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, whose chairman, State Sen. Charlie Dean, sponsored the bill, passed the measure in a unanimous vote.

For the state’s first magnitude and outstanding springs, the bill would put in place timelines for setting minimum flows and levels intended to protect flow and water quantity. It would also set basin management action plans to ensure water quality by reducing pollution produced on the land near springs.

Representatives of the Florida Springs Council, Our Santa Fe River, the Sierra Club and 1,000 Friends of Florida all raised objections that the proposed legislation does not do enough to protect springs.

Our Santa Fe River’s Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson said the state is not doing enough to require conservation. Water management district officials who say rivers and springs are already flowing below historic levels need to turn down applications for groundwater pumping permits, she said.

“We think the problems for the springs are overpumping and too much nitrogen,” said Bob Palmer, with the Gainesville-based Florida Springs Council.

Bob Palmer

Palmer said flow levels and basin plans are “ineffective tools” because rivers and springs that have them aren’t necessarily healthy.

Palmer suggested the state start levying an “aquifer protection fee” for using fertilizer in a spring shed.

Ryan Smart, the president of 1000 Friends of Florida, questioned if that would effectively monitor withdrawals when more than 100,000 gallons could be pumped from wells less than 8 inches wide.

State Sen. David Simmons, R-Longwood, who has worked with Dean, R-Inverness, on proposed water legislation in the past, said he felt some of the criticism was off base.

A Nature Conservancy of Florida representative spoke for the bill, saying it set the framework for springs protection.

Two prominent business groups, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, also offered support. The state chamber representative said it would protect Florida against the water shortages California now faces.

Read the article in its entirety in the Gainesville Sun at this link.

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