Chris Curry of the Gainesville Sun has written an article in today’s edition entitled “Water, spring bills mirror bills from last session.” Here he compares the new bills (PCB SAC 16-01 and SB 552) to those Sen. Dean introduced last year and which died when the session ended abruptly. A quote from David Cullen of the Sierra Club Florida says “So far it is largely the end of last year’s session, when everything blew up…,”
The article states that the bills have some good but are watered down from those of last year. They give lip service to the water crisis pointing out the declining flow and quality of our water resources saying that “action is urgently needed.” In the past the state has not vigorously and faithfully followed the path set by the legislation, resulting in continued degradation of our aquifer, springs and rivers.
The Senate and House bills also stay in line with current state law and define minimum-flow levels as the point from which any additional groundwater pumping will be deemed “significantly harmful” to a water body. Dean’s initial bill from last year dropped the word “significantly” and, in doing so, would have allowed less environmental harm before groundwater pumping permit-holders had to take part in projects to try to restore the springs.
But industry groups such as the Associated Industries of Florida objected to the more stringent standard, saying it was was a potentially costly regulation that did not have enough science to support it. The word “significantly” was added back into Dean’s bill as it moved through the committee process last year and remains in this year’s proposal.
Bob Palmer of the Florida Springs Council, of which Our Santa Fe River is a founding member, gives his assessment:
“We do have concerns about these bills, especially the way in which they rely on the accelerated application of existing regulatory tools (total maximum daily loads, basin management action plans, minimum flows and levels) which are not currently working to protect springs,” Palmer wrote in an email. “If the relevant state agencies were to apply the provisions of these proposed bills vigorously, there is no doubt that the health of springs would rebound from its currently compromised condition. However, we are all too familiar with the ways in which the state misapplies these tools today, which leads us to question whether passage of these bills will fundamentally change springs protection in Florida.”
Palmer noted that, in this area of the state, the state has already concluded that spring-fed lower Santa Fe River exceeds its targeted total maximum daily load for nitrate pollution and that the lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers are flowing below their set minimum-flow levels.
He said the state’s basin management action plan to reduce those nitrate levels relies heavily on agricultural businesses voluntarily deciding to implement pollution-reducing best management practices and has not yet improved water quality.
While the Ichetucknee and lower Santa Fe are both already below the minimum-flow levels finalized for them in June, the state has pushed back the timeline for recovery projects for the rivers to as late as 2019, until after a new computer model for regional groundwater flow is in place.
The bottom line on this issue is that several leading environmentalists in the state harbor very little hope that these bills will result in any significant aid or protection for our water resources.
Read the Gainesville Sun article in its entirety at this link.