Watered down one more time
By Halifax Media Group.
For the second year in a row, state Sen. Charlie Dean has carried the banner for substantive changes to Florida’s water policy and springs protection program. And for the second year in a row, the Inverness Republican’s ambitious but reasonable proposals have been watered down by special interest pressure and a House leadership who refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the state’s water crisis.
From the Everglades and Estero Bay in South Florida to Alexander Springs in our own back yard, declining water quality and quantity are realities of 21st century Florida. While many lawmakers and critics of calls for stricter pollution standards, defined protective zones and consumption monitoring and restrictions have panned Dean’s Senate Bill 918 as overreaching, the fact is the vast majority of Florida’s streams, rivers, estuaries and springs fail to meet minimum water quality standards for safe public use. Those same critics say there is not enough science to require the steps SB 918 originally sought to put in place, but one look at Lake Okeechobee or Alexander Springs or the Indian River Lagoon is all the evidence anyone needs, scientist or not, to recognize something is terribly amiss. Plus, there is a veritable library of studies that have been conducted from one end of the state to the other citing the causes of and solutions to Florida’s water quality and quantity problems.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merrit Island, offered hope last year when his predecessor, Will Weatherford, refused to take up the water issue.
Crisafulli declared water would be a priority under his leadership.
Then, in his first act during this year’s legislative session, Crisafulli ushered through a water bill that was business- and agriculture-friendly and inadequately addressed our water crisis in a serious manner.
Now SB 918 is nearing a Senate vote, and what promised initially to be solid legislation that would step up springs protection, expedite the cleanup of the Everglades, address faulty septic tanks, monitor major water users, create springs protection zones and reduce water permit limits if the user is not using what the permit allows, have all been deep-sixed.
What Floridians are likely to be left with is more baby steps to fixing a water quality problem that is growing by leaps and bounds, and state environmental regulators hobbled by legislative limitations.
Sure, the House’s version of the water bill, HB 7003, and Dean’s now-watered down bill will provide some nominal improvements to water policy and programs, but far less than is needed to clean up and restore our waterways in both quality and flow. Once again, the Legislature is kowtowing to big business and big agriculture at every Floridian’s expense.
Florida’s water crisis is hardly new, but it is being exacerbated daily by the pressure of 20 million residents, with more moving in every day. Once again our elected representatives in Tallahassee are ignoring the obvious signs of widespread degradation of our waterways, not to mention the long-term well-being of our state, all to satisfy big campaign donors and special interests.
By Halifax Media Group.
This editorial first appeared in the Ocala Star-Banner on April 15