In HB 7003, Florida House legislators were given an opportunity to fast forward the clean-up of the rapidly declining water quality of Florida’s famous springs-like the Ichetucknee Springs, Lake O and it’s pipe end outlets: St Lucie River, Caloosahatchee and the once prolific fishery of Indain River Lagoon.
As usual they fumbled the ball – rushing a watered down version through the house that was advertised by the stump speakers as “modernizing water law.” Nothing could be further away from true.
Fact Check: HB 7003 supports farmers, cattle ranchers and Big Sugar. They hold the key, and their checkbooks speak loudly in Florida politics so continuation of decades long practices of dumping highly toxic polluted water into all waterways will be business as usual.
HB 7003 passes water bill. It falls short on springs protection, conservation, and Lake Okeechobee cleanup
Audubon worked to educate legislators and to improve HB 7003 before it was rushed through the House earlier this week. But the bill is favored by legislative leaders who claimed it was “modernizing” water law. In fact, it continues the decades long practice of dumping polluted water into the Caloosahatchee and Indian River Lagoon estuaries.
The bill also has springs provisions that fall short of a better bill (SB 918) in the Senate.
Audubon will work in the Senate to fix the problems listed below.
HB 7003 Weakens and Delays Lake Okeechobee and Estuary Cleanup
Florida’s largest lake suffers from decades of pollution and neglect. The lake also discharges polluted water to the Everglades and to coastal estuaries. State agencies committed 2000 to clean up Lake Okeechobee by 2015, but little has been done little to meet water quality standards. The bill:
- Deletes an existing 2015 deadline for meeting water quality standards and offers no deadline for meeting the cleanup goal.
- Repeals and existing law that requires that discharge into the Lake Okeechobee at 35 different points including from sugarcane farms meet water quality standards.
- Sets aside an existing rule that allows state agencies to require that discharges meet water quality standards and adopts an ineffective plan.
- Adopts a phosphorous pollution control program that relies on activities (BMPs) that have not been shown to meet water quality standards.
HB 7003 Does Not Advance Real Springs Restoration
Many of Florida’s world class springs are suffering from reduced flows and excess nutrients. This bill:
- Lacks deadlines for the adoption of minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for Priority Florida Springs. Without MFLs water management districts lack the ability to gauge the cumulative impact of water withdrawals.
- May delay adoption of MFLs by requiring that recovery or prevention strategies be adopted at the same time.
- Lacks deadlines for achieving water quality goals for impaired springs.
- Lacks deadlines for restoring spring flows that have fallen below MFLs.
- Allows pollution to continue to be introduced in springsheds from sewage sludge, hazardous wastes, new septic systems and wastewater disposal facilities which only treat effluent to minimum standards and animal feedlots.