Veto SB 712

Tally 712 legis In: Veto SB 712 | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
SB 712 in Sen. Bradley’s committee, where it passed handily.  Sen. Mayfield third from left.  Photo by Jim Tatum

Following is a commentary by Ryan Smart, Executive Director of the Florida Springs Council, representing about 360,000 Floridians, and a letter signed by 50 organizations and  businesses.  Among them is OSFR.

Senate Bill 712, written originally mostly by Sen. Debbie Mayfield, was a wonderful bill designed to  alleviate many of the water problems in Florida.  Had it been enacted and enforced, Florida would have taken major steps to turn around the abuses and atrocities heaped on our waters by all sorts of users and polluters.

Alas, it was not to be.

The bill that went to the governor’s desk was nothing like the original.  What remained was a bill with a name that sounded like something the environmentalists would write, but it was actually written by industry and those wanting free water and no restrictions on polluting.

None of that matters a whit because the preemption amendment which takes local powers away nullifies whatever good thing it might contain and makes it a horrible bill regardless.

Tallahassee  politicians want “federalist” powers with preemption over all local governments so they may sell their votes to corporations.  These people are working to leave the people with fewer and fewer options to have a  voice in our government.


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Yesterday, the Florida Springs Council sent a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis asking him to veto Senate Bill 712, the mis-named “Clean Waterways Act” that is backed by Florida’s major polluters. Far from being a step-forward, “SB 712 will do nothing to reduce pollution” to Florida’s springs and likely ensures many more years without meaningful action.

Today, 50 organizations and businesses concerned for Florida’s waters joined FSC’s call for a veto. The letter to Gov. DeSantis concludes, “No one will remember what bills were signed, or how much money was proposed, when Florida’s waters are more polluted in five years than they are today. Instead, the legacy left by CS/CS/SB 712 and those who championed it as a solution to our water quality crisis will be another generation of polluted waters.”

Read the full letter below.

March 24, 2020The Honorable Ron DeSantis
Plaza Level 05, The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399RE:  Veto SB 712Governor DeSantis:

The Florida Legislature has passed CS/CS/SB 712, known as the “Clean Waterways Act,” which will soon be sent to your desk.  This bill is an endorsement of the status quo which has led to our current water quality crisis. It does nothing to reduce nutrient pollution to Florida’s springs. Florida’s waters are polluted because our regulatory system is broken and those in charge of protecting our waters are unduly influenced by polluters and their lobbyists. Far from fixing these problems, CS/CS/SB 712 is a symptom of them.

CS/CS/SB 712 relies on an ineffective water quality restoration program called Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs). BMAPs for Outstanding Florida Springs have already been shown to be unable to achieve water quality goals.  The Florida Springs Council and several springs advocacy groups are in active litigation against the Florida Department of Environmental Protect over these failed plans.  As passed, CS/CS/SB 712 is based on a program that is designed to fail at achieving water quality goals.

CS/CS/SB 712 does nothing to prevent even one pound of agricultural pollution, the predominant source of nutrient pollution to Outstanding Florida Springs, from reaching our groundwater.  It requires DACS to confirm that producers are implementing current best management practices, even though the Department of Environmental Protection has acknowledged in a court filing that current best management practices are not useful for achieving water quality goals.  By law, as long as agricultural producers implement these ineffective practices, they are automatically assumed in compliance with water quality standards. CS/CS/SB 712 does not require the adoption or implementation of improved best management practices for agricultural producers, even though the need for such practices is almost universally recognized and many of Florida’s impaired waters cannot recover without them.

CS/CS/SB 712 continues to allow foul sewage sludge from South Florida to be transported north and dumped into areas where it pollutes the headwaters of the St. Johns River and other important waterways.  It weakens efforts to regulate sewage sludge application and includes loopholes which will delay stronger protections indefinitely.

Ironically, while CS/CS/SB 712 relies exclusively on a broken and failed regulatory system to protect water quality, it preempts local governments from filling the vacuum left by a lack of leadership at the state level and addressing environmental issues in their own jurisdictions.

The shortcomings of CS/CS/SB 712 are many and various.  We have provided specific recommendations for amendments and explanations of the need for these amendments to legislators, Secretary Valenstein, and Chief Science Officer Frazer to no avail.

Because this bill does literally nothing to protect or restore Florida’s springs we ask you to veto CS/CS/SB 712 and demand that the Legislature return next year to pass bold effective water quality legislation before it is too late. If signed into law, CS/CS/SB 712 will only make our water quality problems worse in the long run. It provides political cover for a Legislature that refuses to make the tough choices necessary to address this crisis.  And it guarantees another half-decade, or more, of inaction towards meaningful and effective water quality laws.

No one will remember what bills were signed, or how much money was proposed, when Florida’s waters are more polluted in five years than they are today.  Instead, the legacy left by CS/CS/SB 712 and those who championed it as a solution to our water quality crisis will be another generation of polluted waters.


Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Georgia Ackerman, Riverkeeper and Executive DirectorAquatics for Life
Susan Steinhauser, PresidentBroward for Progress
Laurie Woodward Garcia, Co-LeaderCenter for Biological Diversity
Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director

Citizens for an Engaged Electorate
Barbara Byram, Co-Founder

Collier County Waterkeeper
Colleen Gill, Waterkeeper

Deep Spring Farm
Leela Robinson, Owner

Democratic Club of On Top of the World
Bob Troy, Director

Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida
Janelle J. Christensn, PhD, President

Duval Audubon Society
Jody Willis, President

Alisa Coe, Staff Attorney

Emerald Coastkeeper
Laurie Murphy, Executive Director

Englewood Indivisible
Jane Hunter, Leadership Team

Florida Paddling Association
Jill Lingard, President

Florida Poor People’s Campaign
Dr. Carolynn Zonia, Leadership Team

Florida Springs Council
Ryan Smart, Executive Director

Florida Water Conservation Trust
Terry Brant, Legal & Legislative Chairman

Friends of the Wekiva River
Mike Cliburn, Secretary

Friends of Warm Mineral Springs
Juliette Jones, Director

Gullah/Geechee Nation
Queen Quet, Chieftess

Healthy Gulf
Christian Wagley, Coastal Organizer

Hernando Environmental Land Protectors
Charles Morton, President

Hillsborough Democratic Environmental Caucus
Russell Conn, Chair

Ichetucknee Alliance
John D. Jopling, President

IDEAS for Us
Clayton Louis Ferrara, Executive Director

Indivisible Clay County
Sandy Goldman, ChairIndivisible FL13
Cynthia Lippert, OrganizerIndivisible St. Johns
Mary Lawrence, FounderIndivisible Venice
Debra Schyvinck, Leadership Team

League of Women Voters Florida
Judith Hushon, Natural Resources Chair

Lee Weber Distribution
Lee Weber, Owner

Lobby for Animals
Thomas Ponce, President

Martin County Conservation Alliance
Donna Melzer, Chair

Miakka Community Club
Becky Ayech, President

Our Santa Fe River
Mike Roth, President

Pine Lily Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society
Karina Veaudry, President

Rainbow River Conservation
Burt Eno, President

Rebah Farm
Carol Ahearn, Owner

Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association
Jill McGuire, President

Save Orange County, Inc.
Dr. Kelly Semrad, Vice Chair

Save the Manatee Club
Anne Harvey, Esq., Acting Director of Conservation and Advocacy

Sierra Club Florida
Frank Jackalone, Chapter Director

Silver Springs Alliance
Chris Spontak, President

South Florida Wildlands Association
Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director

Space Coast Audubon
Matt Heyden, Conservation Chair

Speak Up Wekiva, Inc.
Chuck O’Neal, President

Stone Crab Alliance
Karen Dwyer, PhD., Co-founder

Visions Unlimited Productions, Inc.
Leslie Harris-Senac, Owner

Wakulla Springs Alliance
Robert Deyle, Chair

Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration
Dan Hilliard, President

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