Critics Dump On Senate Water Plan

Mar 24, 2015

In what amounts to the year of the environment, the Senate focused Tuesday on Florida’s water and its troubled springs.

Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, steering water policy.
Credit Florida Senate

Republicans on the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee vowed to protect the quality and quantity of spring water, but critics say those are just empty promises.

The bill by committee chairman Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican, covers water regulation from the very top, creating a super advisory council, to the very bottom, identifying septic tanks in springs protection zones.

But environmentalists say the protection strategies it relies on are too leaky to work. Here’s Anna Upton of the Everglades Foundation:

“The Everglades Foundation is opposed to this amendment and that problem that we have is that it is based on a theory that is detached from reality.”

Environmentalist complained the bill doesn’t change much. It relies on so called “best management practices” and “basin management plans,” that give polluters more freedom to police themselves.

And Robert Palmer of the Florida Springs Institute, wasn’t afraid to tell Dean that’s not working.

“The Santa Fe River in your district. We have a “BMAP” there, and that’s not going to restore that river or that spring in my opinion.”

Palmer’s fellow council member, Robert Knight, says the bill does little to stress, or encourage, water conservation.

“And so one of the amendments we would like to see put in is a groundwater protection fee, which would actually put a fee on groundwater uses.”

Knight doesn’t criticize everything in the plan. Unlike  a competing House plan, Dean’s bill  lowers the bar for triggering springs management and restoration plans.

The bill is also backed by one of the most influential business lobbying groups in Tallahassee, Associated Industries of Florida. Greg Munson, head of AIF’s H20 Coalition, was filled with praise.

“We’re very encouraged and very appreciative of the changes made by the amendment that we’re talking about here today.

But not surprisingly, Munson thinks the bill goes too far. Especially when it comes to setting water standards and flow levels for springs.

After calmly watching his bill get trampled from all sides, Dean promised to keep

“Let me say this. There’s no perfection in this bill, or anybody else’s bill.”

Expect more changes. Dean’s bill has two more committee stops before reaching the floor.