Wakulla Springs cleanup plan on hold, DEP swamped by BMAP protests

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The original article appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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Wakulla Springs cleanup plan on hold, DEP swamped by BMAP protests

Wakulla Springs advocates buoyed by opportunity to rewrite 20-year proposal to improve water quality

Cleanup plans for Wakulla and a dozen other Florida springs are on hold after critics — including environmentalists and builders — met a Friday deadline to challenge them in administrative court.

The Florida Home Builders Association was joined by 10 building and environmental group in asking for a delay in the implementation of the Basin Management Action Plans signed by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein last month. Two individuals also filed petitions challenging the plans for the Suwanee and Santa Fe rivers.

Those opposed to the plans say they are narrow in scope, weak on enforcement, and their late release by DEP  — just days before they were supposed to go into effect under a 2016 law — gave little time to review and decide whether to challenge them in court.

DEP is reviewing all 13 requests. Spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said if the petitions are “deemed sufficient,” they will be forwarded to the Division of Administrative Hearings.

“This is a wake-up call for FDEP,” said Sean McGlynn, chair of the Wakulla Springs Alliance. “They are going to have to fix the BMAPS, all of them, including ours.”

The WSA declined to take FDEP to court over the plan for Wakulla Springs, south of Tallahassee, banking on other groups with more financial resources would take on the court challenge. The BMAPs are supposed to reduce the flow of nitrates into freshwater springs and lakes.

The FHBA said more time is needed to see if new advanced nitrogen-reducing septic systems could be used to comply with the BMAPs requirements.

“We’re trying to find something that’s affordable,” Payton said. “I think that’s the goal for everybody.”

The Wakulla BMAP focus is on the 1.4 million pounds of nitrogen that flows into the spring from the 12,000 septic tanks in the primary focus area. McGlynn is among those who want the plan to do more to address nitrates from farm and yard fertilizers and to include the lakes and streams north of the spring in the cleanup.

“The sinking streams, sinking lakes, sinkholes and linked spring are forgotten. We can’t fix Wakulla Springs by ignoring all those features,” said McGlynn. “Thank goodness some people have enough money to challenge the BMAP. This can only help.”

Reporter James Call can be reached at [email protected]

l can be reached at [email protected]

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