by Jeannette Marie Hinsdale
Senate Bill 1576: Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act “died in messages.”
That means after the bill passed its three Senate committee of reference hearings and was voted favorably on the Senate floor, it was sent to the House of Representatives where even a gutted and watered down bill was DOA. House Speaker Will Weatherford never even scheduled the House companion bill, HB 1313, for a hearing saying that he hadn’t had a chance to look at the bill.
Word from the House on Springs Protection is “Wait!” But can the Springs afford to wait another year?
The 2014–15 state budget appropriated (prior to vetoes) $30 million for springs. That works out to $25 million for springs protection initiatives and $5 million for agriculture best management practices (BMPs).*
This happened in a year when the state has more than a $1 billion surplus. There was much political grandstanding on cutting fees to save Florida automobile owners about $25 per vehicle. That won’t buy a house or a car or even put much food on the table. How many of you Floridians would rather that $25 have gone to protect the Springs, protect the drinking water supply?
Floridians need to elect leaders that have the political will and foresight to address this dire issue — the availability of clean drinking water.
We’ve got important work to do.
State Legislators are now back in their districts and a lot of them are having town meetings. Please attend these meetings, voice your support for the protection of the Floridan Aquifer and her Springs, and encourage your representatives to get involved with promoting good policy towards that end.
To find your reps and their contact information go here: http://flhouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx, and here: http://flsenate.gov/Senators.
Call their offices to find out when they will be having town hall meetings, schedule an appointment to meet with them, or simply send them a message.
Springs are only as healthy as their springsheds. There were two articles recently in the Gainesville Sun about new studies of the biggest sources of pollution in Rainbow and Silver Springs recharge areas: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20140509/ARTICLES/140509614?Title=Study-identifies-sources-of-pollution-in-Rainbow-Springs and http://www.gainesville.com/article/20140509/OPINION01/140509689
The Silver Springs study shows that the number one source of pollution in the springshed is Septic tanks (40%), followed by Horse farms (14%), Residential Fertilizer (11%)**, Agriculture (7%), and Cattle Farms (4%).***
The Rainbow Springs study cites Cattle farming as the highest source of pollution (25%), followed by Septic tanks (21%), Horse farms (19%), AG fertilizer (18%), and then Residential fertilizer (7%).
SB 1576 addressed all these sources of pollution.
There is no one-size fits all for Spring-shed impacts, it depends on where they are. Marion county is Horse Country whereas Suwannee County is Agriculture and Cattle farms and Poultry Manufacturing. Duval County (JAX) probably would have a higher source of urban fertilizer, and there are about 140,000 septic tanks in use in Duval County with more permits being issued.Septic tanks definitely pose a problem. Nothing personal, just science. For example, Suwannee County, the where the springsheds of the Ichetucknee, Manatee, and Fanning Springs reside, is about 80 percent rural.
So, next year we’ll have more ammo/data to back up the means to Protecting Florida’s Springs.
AND to give more teeth to that end, Prepare to Vote for Amendment One, Water and Land Conservation, in November. In the words of John Moran, “Florida’s springs are world-class treasures and they deserve world-class protection.” Amendment One will supply the funding to do just that.
Need to register to vote? Find your supervisor of elections.
Meanwhile, we know that we can help the protect the Floridan Aquifer and her Springs by growing “friendlier” yards that do not require a diet high on water and fertilizer use.**** Plant natives for flowers and butterflies for your viewing pleasure.
Learn more by visiting http://floridaspringsinstitute.org/.
*In comparison $47.2 million was budgeted for beach restoration (renourishment) projects.
**A study found that lawns grow just fine without fertilizer in rainy seasons.
***Dr. Bob Knight estimates Silver Springs gets a higher percent from fertilizer than septic tanks.
****Phosphorus and nitrogen are essential nutrients for plants and animals and are the limiting nutrients in aquatic environments.
Typically, nitrogen is the limiting nutrient in spring systems. Therefore, even modest increases in nitrogen above optimum levels can accelerate algae growth, plant growth, and deplete oxygen levels.