SB 712, the 2020
CLEAN WATERWAYS ACT
Despite more than 50 conservation groups calling for a veto, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just signed into law
Senate Bill 712, the “Clean Waterways Act”.
SB 712 started as a strong bill backed by conservation groups. But it was watered down by industry interests and the bill that was ultimately signed into law will do absolutely nothing to reduce nutrient pollution in Florida’s springs.
What it WILL do is allow the governor and legislators to get headlines and take a victory lap for finally passing water legislation to address Florida's water pollution crisis without inconveniencing any industry friends.
What it WILL do is allow the state's largest polluters, whose lobbyists succeeded in removing any real regulations, to continue polluting.
What it WILL do is lock ineffective strategies into place for decades.
Learn more about SB 712, "The Clean Waterways Act."
Read FSC's official statement on the Clean Waterways Act
SB712 vs Algae Task Force
The bill ignores scientific recommendations, including those of the Governor's Algae Task Force.
See a collection of Media Coverage on the Clean Waterways Act
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FSC's statement on the “Clean Waterways Act”
A ringing endorsement of the status quo, SB 712 will do absolutely nothing to reduce nutrient pollution in Florida’s many impaired, algae-choked springs. Florida's springs are polluted because our regulatory system is broken and those in charge of protecting our waters are captured by polluters and their lobbyists. Far from fixing these problems, SB 712 is a symptom of them.
Water quality in springs is currently addressed through Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs). The Florida Springs Council, along with seven springs advocacy groups and several private citizens, are in active litigation against the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over these failed plans. Although we continue to await the Judge’s Proposed Recommended Order, we believe that the outcome will highlight areas of law and deficiencies in enforcement that must be addressed if we are going to reverse the decline of Florida’s springs.
SB 712 contains no provisions to strengthen the implementation of BMAPs to impaired springs. Some of the deficiencies in SB 712 are:
It would do nothing to prevent even one pound of agricultural pollution, the predominant source of nutrient pollution to Outstanding Florida Springs.
It does not require the adoption or implementation of improved best management practices for agricultural producers, even though their need is universally recognized and most of Florida’s impaired springs cannot recover without them.
It continues to allow foul sewage sludge from South Florida to be transported north and dumped into the headwaters of the St. Johns River and other important waterways.
It does not address DEP’s refusal to allocate clean-up requirements to categories of polluters, as required by law.
It does not address DEP’s refusal to plan for the increased pollution that will inevitably follow from growth in population and agriculture in Florida’s springs country.
Over the past two years, the Florida Springs Council has provided specific recommendations for amendments on these and other problems to legislators, DEP Secretary Valenstein, and Chief Science Officer Frazer. In its enactment of SB 712, the State’s message to springs lovers is clear: “Let’s not try anything new, we might offend our industry friends.”
SB 712 will only make our water quality problems worse in the long run.
It provides political cover for a Legislature and Governor that refuse to make the tough choices necessary to address this crisis.
And it will lock in another half-decade, or more, of inaction towards meaningful and effective water quality laws.
The impotence and and inaction of state leaders has placed the responsibility for protecting Florida’s springs and rivers on non-profit organizations like the Florida Springs Council and our allies. We have no intention of giving up the fight.
In the 2021 legislative session, we intend once again to offer meaningful legislative changes that will protect Florida’s springs before restoration becomes impossible.