In spite of strong organizing by citizens and environmental groups and unanimous support in the State Senate, the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act failed to pass during Florida’s 2014 legislative session. Although the bill would have provided water protection that Florida desperately needs today, House Speaker Will Wetherford punted to next year’s incoming Speaker, Steve Crisafulli. In a Tampa Bay Times column, Estus Whitfield, an environmental advisor to four Florida governors, summed things up pretty well: “Just be glad the Legislature doesn’t control your local fire department or you might be told that your burning house can’t be saved because the next shift really wants to fight the fire.”
Despite this setback, key water protections can be implemented now. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has the power to implement many of the changes in the bill, including septic tank inspections and water use reduction, if Governor Scott chooses to prioritize Florida’s waters.
Gulf Restoration Network has been calling for the formation of a broad-based stakeholder group to create and implement a comprehensive long-term water policy for Florida. It’s time to work together. Water is precious and finite. It’s polluted and it’s disappearing. But there is hope for cleaning and protecting Florida springs, rivers, aquifer and estuaries—if we have the faith and the will to see it through.
Cathy Harrelson is GRN's Florida Organizer.