The Florida Springs Council gives us a handy overview of what is happening in the new Legislative session which may affect springs and our environment. We love the proposed tax on bottled water (SB 652), but most of the other news is bad.
Somehow, the DEP’s actions described below is no surprise, but Sec. Valenstein’s acknowledgement of it may be.
We particularly don’t like seeing the dangerous Tallahassee trend of power grabbing at the expense of local government. This refers to Jennifer Bradley’s horrible SB 62 neutralizing regional planning councils. Bradley is from District 5 and should know better. Just voted in on Nov. 3 last, she is wasting no time in destroying Florida.
We appreciate the update on what is happening in Tallahassee.
The first Committee Week of Florida’s 2021 Legislative Session wrapped up in Tallahassee under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s the Florida Springs Council’s update.
Two Committee Meetings this week were of significance to springs and river advocates.
1First, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection provided updates on the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, passed in 2016, and the Clean Waterways Act, passed in 2020. Here’s what we learned:
Secretary Noah Valenstein acknowledged that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection never intended to adopt legally mandated rules (Section 373.219(3)), FL Statutes) to protect Outstanding Florida Springs from harmful water withdrawals. Instead, DEP plans to use rules developed with utilities and developers for the Central Florida Water Initiative that will exacerbate the destruction of Florida’s springs and critical manatee habitat.
After spending more than $300 million in state funding, DEP can only point to one of twenty-four impaired Outstanding Florida Springs that is showing any sign of recovery: Wakulla Springs. Progress at Wakulla is due to a $200+ million locally funded wastewater treatment plant upgrade and hydrological changes in the Wakulla Basin, not to state funding or to a Basin Management Action Plan. Why is progress not being made? Because springs funding is totally inadequate and what funding is available is not being used effectively.
DEP Deputy Secretary Adam Blalock repeated Governor DeSantis’ false and misleading claim that $100 million in new springs funding was appropriated for the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year, taking credit for funds originally appropriated in 2018 under Governor Scott, but not spent for dubious reasons.
2 Second, the Department of Transportation provided an update on the controversial, expensive, and unnecessary M-Cores Toll Roads. Senators Lori Berman and Randolph Bracy pressed DOT Secretary Kevin Thibault and Chief Engineer Will Watts about the need for the roads, how much money has been spent so far on the planning process, and the overwhelming public opposition.
We are tracking legislation that will affect springs
Although the official 2021 Legislative Session won’t kick-off until early March, we are closely tracking bills affecting springs and rivers as they are filed. Here are some of the bills that we will be engaged on this Session:
Senate Bill 652 by Sen. Annette Taddeo proposes a 12.5 cent per gallon tax on all bottled water withdrawals in the State of Florida. Proceeds from the tax would be deposited into the Wastewater Treatment and Stormwater Management Revolving Loan Trust Fund, with priority given to projects that connect existing septic systems to central sewer. This legislation is a good first step towards addressing the exploitation of Florida’s waters by large water users and reducing septic tank pollution to Florida’s springs and rivers. The Florida Springs Council supports a water use fee on all large permitted water withdrawals.
Senate Bill 336 by Sen. Darryl Rouson establishes a pilot program to reduce pollution from large dairy operations. The bill proposes $800,000 for the Lake Okeechobee Basin and $500,000 for the Suwannee River Basin.
Senate Bill 62 by Sen. Jennifer Bradley would effectively eliminate the role of Regional Planning Councils in analyzing proposed developments. Regional Planning Councils provide essential planning services to many rural counties and small cities in Florida helping to protect our environment and rural communities.
FSC will keep you up to date on bills and appropriations actions that impact Florida’s springs throughout the 2021 Legislative Session.
Look out for opportunities to directly engage in the Legislative process as these and other bills are heard by Committees in each Chamber.
FSC executive director Ryan Smart is the only lobbyist in Florida working solely on protecting and restoring Florida’s springs. Please consider supporting this important part of FSC’s work by signing up as a sustaining member. Sustaining memberships allow springs protectors to sign up for automatic monthly donations to keep this important work going.