Woeful Lack of Leadership From Putnam, Caldwell, Crisafulli and Gardiner

  An honor code for polluting farms? Just what our waterways and Everglades needed. Floridians can “thank” four men – Ag Comm. Adam Putnam, Rep. Matt Caldwell, Rep. Steve Crisafulli and Sen. Andy Gardiner – working at the behest of corporate agriculture interests during the 2016 legislative session.  (Florid Today)
Aliki Moncrief has an opinion piece in FloridaToday.

-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-

Moncrief: Florida waters to decline under new law

Aliki Moncrief | Guest columnist

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.

 It may seem obvious, but the best way to safeguard our waters from fertilizers, pesticides, animal waste, and other agricultural pollution is to require polluting farms to meet water quality standards. That used to be the case for agricultural operations in the Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie, and Caloosahatchee watersheds.

636388416010333922 Aliki Moncrief In: Woeful Lack of Leadership From Putnam, Caldwell, Crisafulli and Gardiner | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Aliki Montcrief

Aliki Moncrief Executive director Florida Conservation Voters
Florida Conservation Voters

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

 The Legislature has systematically for nearly a decade cut staff and reduced resources available to the agencies tasked with safeguarding our water supply and preventing pollution. Inspections and enforcement of pollution standards have dropped dramatically. The 2016 water bill puts Florida farther down a path of replacing actual pollution limits with an honor code.
 Agricultural Best Management Practices haven’t proven to be effective or speedy ways to reduce water pollution. And without enforcement, they are even less likely to solve our water pollution problems.

636382215124786047 Fish Kill in Banana River 10 In: Woeful Lack of Leadership From Putnam, Caldwell, Crisafulli and Gardiner | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River

Residents in the Cocoa Isles neighborhood in Cocoa Beach started seeing evidence of a fish kill in …more

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.

 The 2016 water bill does not do enough to protect our waters from pollution or prepare for population growth, which puts increased demands on our water supply. By leaving enforcement up to the polluters, we are giving up on accountability and placing our trust in those who have the most to gain from unrestricted water use and lack of enforcement.

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.

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