Unfortunately, our elected representatives in Tallahasee are following in the footprints of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Governor Scott by trying weaken environmental protections for the St. Johns River and Florida's environment.
Get involved and contact your legislators to let them know that you support strong protections for our natural resources. Protecting our waterways is smart economic policy and a wise investment in our future economic prosperity and well-being.
On a positive note, the Springs Springs Revival Act (SB 978 -Soto /HB 789 -Stewart) would require water management districts to identify first and second magnitude springs with declining flow levels, create a 5-year plan to restore these impaired water bodies, and submit progress reports to the Governor and the Legislature.
Here are some of the troubling bills that are making their way through the Florida House and Senate:
- Numeric Nutrient Criteria – SB 7034 (Proposed Committee Bill by Environmental Preservation and Conservation)
This bill would authorize the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to move forward with establishing its weaker numeric nutrient limits. As we have previously reported, nutrient pollution is a widespread problem throughout Florida, caused by residential and agricultural fertilizer, sewage, manure, and pet waste. We continue to support the adoption of the more protective numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) established for Florida waterways by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This legislation would prohibit any government entity from purchasing additional conservation lands unless an equal amount of public property held by those entities was sold. This would severely restrict new conservation land acquisitions and efforts to protect and restore springs and create new state and local parks.
This bill would allow state-owned land bordering private property to be exchanged for a conservation easement on the adjacent private land. The conservation easement does not have to be permanent, and the new owners will be allowed to use the public land for wildlife management, grazing, timber, and other private uses.
This legislation extends Alternative Water Supply Permits, such as water withdrawals from the St. Johns River, to 30 years with a possible 7-year extension if the project is bonded. It also limits the ability of Water Management Districts to modify those permits.
Pre-empts local governments ability to have a more protective well permitting process, gives agriculture more water rights, grants more stormwater permitting exceptions, creates more general permits that reduces oversight and accountability, and restricts cities/counties from issuing more than three requests for information on a permit application before making a decision.
- Environmental Permitting – HB 357 (Boyd)
According to The Florida Current: "New this year is HB 357 by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, called the "Manufacturing Competitiveness Act." The bill provides for local governments to establish programs for approving development sites for manufacturing plants. Under the bill, state agencies — within cities and counties with approved programs — must simultaneously review permit applications for air pollution, water use, wetlands, threatened or endangered species and highway access. Any additional requests by state agencies for additional information must be submitted within 20 days or the application may not be denied. Final agency action is required within 60 days for a completed application, which compares to 90 days under existing state law."
We previously reported that these bills would significantly expand the role of agricultural interests in Florida’s water supply planning process, potentially placing private interests over the interest of the public, and does nothing to encourage water conservation.
Update: Several productive stakeholder meetings over the past three weeks have changed the outlook on SB 948. Senator Grimsley worked with all stakeholders to craft a fair compromise. The bill was amended on April 1 and now includes conservation measures in water supply projections, maintains a focus on alternative waters supply, and recognizes the unique nature of different regions of our state.
HB 1063, which contains similar language to the amended SB 948, is currently in the Agricultural and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.
HB 999 and SB 1684 currently contains language similar to the original, un-amended, version of SB 948, as well as a multitude of other changes to environmental permitting. HB 999 passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, again with Representative Kevin Rader voting in opposition. It is going to be a challenge to keep the contents of the agreement with Senator Grimsley from being tarnished by the confusion related to HB 999/SB 1684.
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