Moncrief: Florida waters to decline under new law
In the early weeks of the 2016 Florida Legislative Session, lawmakers passed a massive bill touted as “comprehensive” water policy. But, at a time when Florida needed robust and aggressive protections of our imperiled waters, Senate Bill 552 fell far short of meeting our current and future needs.
Under the new law, polluting farms are presumed to meet water quality standards by merely following Best Management Practices (such as building fences to keep animals out of streams and lakes). The bill does not require monitoring or inspections and instead focuses on what amounts to voluntary pollution control strategies.
Crisafulli: Florida waters getting cleaner thanks to 2016 law
Also, for a water bill to be both comprehensive and to improve on our existing water laws, it would need to make water conservation a priority. That would be a transformative policy shift, but it isn’t what the 2016 Legislature produced under Senate President Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s leadership.
SB 552 hypes expensive alternative water supply projects such as desalination and surface water withdrawals. Rather than reducing waste and increasing water conservation, the bill further locks our state into an unavoidable clash between the needs of our natural systems and the needs of agricultural, commercial, and residential water users.
On the positive side, SB 552 establishes the “Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act.” The bill designates our largest springs as “outstanding Florida springs” and requires water management districts to develop emergency rules to ensure those springs receive sufficient water flow. In addition, new water pollution restrictions targeting septic tank effluent and fertilizers now will be required in areas that feed into our outstanding springs.
Too many of our elected representatives congratulated themselves over the supposed “comprehensive” nature of this bill. But that doesn’t match up to reality. The reality is SB 552 largely failed to address Florida’s most important water needs.
Our waters are in decline throughout the state, and we what we need is action, not words.
Moncrief is the executive director of Tallahassee-based Florida Conservation Voters.