When the original version of the “Clean Waterways Act” was first introduced in 2019, it had the support of the Florida Springs Council and other environmental groups.But the version that has passed in both chambers of the Florida Legislature and is on its way to the Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk this year is a version that has been written and approved by lobbyists for Florida’s major polluters.
On March 23rd the Florida Springs Council sent its own individual letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis asking him to veto Senate Bill 712, the mis-named “Clean Waterways Act” that is backed by Florida’s major polluters. The following day, March 24th, 49 other organizations and businesses concerned for Florida’s waters joined FSC to call for a veto (since the letter was sent, 9 others have signed on bringing the total signatories to 59).
The letter is in its entirety below.
March 24, 2020
The Honorable Ron DeSantis
Plaza Level 05, The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
RE: Veto SB 712
The Florida Legislature has passed CS/CS/SB 712, known as the “Clean Waterways Act,” which will soon be sent to your desk. This bill is an endorsement of the status quo which has led to our current water quality crisis. It does nothing to reduce nutrient pollution to Florida’s springs. Florida’s waters are polluted because our regulatory system is broken and those in charge of protecting our waters are unduly influenced by polluters and their lobbyists. Far from fixing these problems, CS/CS/SB 712 is a symptom of them.
CS/CS/SB 712 relies on an ineffective water quality restoration program called Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs). BMAPs for Outstanding Florida Springs have already been shown to be unable to achieve water quality goals. The Florida Springs Council and several springs advocacy groups are in active litigation against the Florida Department of Environmental Protect over these failed plans. As passed, CS/CS/SB 712 is based on a program that is designed to fail at achieving water quality goals.
CS/CS/SB 712 does nothing to prevent even one pound of agricultural pollution, the predominant source of nutrient pollution to Outstanding Florida Springs, from reaching our groundwater. It requires DACS to confirm that producers are implementing current best management practices, even though the Department of Environmental Protection has acknowledged in a court filing that current best management practices are not useful for achieving water quality goals. By law, as long as agricultural producers implement these ineffective practices, they are automatically assumed in compliance with water quality standards. CS/CS/SB 712 does not require the adoption or implementation of improved best management practices for agricultural producers, even though the need for such practices is almost universally recognized and many of Florida’s impaired waters cannot recover without them.
CS/CS/SB 712 continues to allow foul sewage sludge from South Florida to be transported north and dumped into areas where it pollutes the headwaters of the St. Johns River and other important waterways. It weakens efforts to regulate sewage sludge application and includes loopholes which will delay stronger protections indefinitely.
Ironically, while CS/CS/SB 712 relies exclusively on a broken and failed regulatory system to protect water quality, it preempts local governments from filling the vacuum left by a lack of leadership at the state level and addressing environmental issues in their own jurisdictions.
The shortcomings of CS/CS/SB 712 are many and various. We have provided specific recommendations for amendments and explanations of the need for these amendments to legislators, Secretary Valenstein, and Chief Science Officer Frazer to no avail.
Because this bill does literally nothing to protect or restore Florida’s springs we ask you to veto CS/CS/SB 712 and demand that the Legislature return next year to pass bold effective water quality legislation before it is too late. If signed into law, CS/CS/SB 712 will only make our water quality problems worse in the long run. It provides political cover for a Legislature that refuses to make the tough choices necessary to address this crisis. And it guarantees another half-decade, or more, of inaction towards meaningful and effective water quality laws.
No one will remember what bills were signed, or how much money was proposed, when Florida’s waters are more polluted in five years than they are today. Instead, the legacy left by CS/CS/SB 712 and those who championed it as a solution to our water quality crisis will be another generation of polluted waters.
Georgia Ackerman, Riverkeeper and Executive Director
Aquatics for Life
Susan Steinhauser, President
Broward for Progress
Laurie Woodward Garcia, Co-Leader
Cape Coral Wildlife Trust
Pascha Donaldson, President
Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife Carl Veaux, President
Center for Biological Diversity
Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director
Citizens’ Climate Lobby of Fort Myers Connie Hutson, co-leader
Citizens for an Engaged Electorate
Barbara Byram, Co-Founder
Collier County Waterkeeper
Colleen Gill, Waterkeeper
Deep Spring Farm
Leela Robinson, Owner
Democratic Club of On Top of the World
Bob Troy, Director
Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida
Janelle J. Christensn, PhD, President
Duval Audubon Society
Jody Willis, President
Alisa Coe, Staff Attorney
Laurie Murphy, Executive Director
Jane Hunter, Leadership Team
Florida Paddling Association
Jill Lingard, President
Florida Poor People's Campaign
Dr. Carolynn Zonia, Leadership Team
Florida Rights of Nature Network, Inc. Chuck O'Neal, Chairman
Florida Springs Council
Ryan Smart, Executive Director
Florida Water Conservation Trust
Terry Brant, Legal & Legislative Chairman
Friends of the Wekiva River
Mike Cliburn, Secretary
Friends of Warm Mineral Springs
Juliette Jones, Director
Queen Quet, Chieftess
Christian Wagley, Coastal Organizer
Hernando Environmental Land Protectors
Charles Morton, President
Hillsborough Democratic Environmental Caucus
Russell Conn, Chair
Homosassa River Alliance
Frank Kapocsi, President
John D. Jopling, President
IDEAS for Us
Clayton Louis Ferrara, Executive Director
Indivisible Clay County
Sandy Goldman, Chair
Cynthia Lippert, Organizer
Indivisible St. Johns
Mary Lawrence, Founder
Debra Schyvinck, Leadership Team
League of Women Voters, Lee County Patty Duncan, Environmental Chair
League of Women Voters Florida
Judith Hushon, Natural Resources Chair
Don Eslick, Chair
Lee Weber Distribution
Lee Weber, Owner
Lobby for Animals
Thomas Ponce, President
Martin County Conservation Alliance
Donna Melzer, Chair
Miakka Community Club
Becky Ayech, President
Our Santa Fe River
Mike Roth, President
Pachamama Alliance of SWFL Holley Rauen, co-founder
Pine Lily Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society
Karina Veaudry, President
Rainbow River Conservation
Burt Eno, President
Carol Ahearn, Owner
Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association
Jill McGuire, President
Save Orange County, Inc.
Dr. Kelly Semrad, Vice Chair
Save the Manatee Club
Anne Harvey, Esq., Acting Director of Conservation and Advocacy
Sierra Club Florida
Frank Jackalone, Chapter Director
Silver Springs Alliance
Chris Spontak, President
South Florida Wildlands Association
Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director
Space Coast Audubon
Matt Heyden, Conservation Chair
Speak Up Wekiva, Inc.
Chuck O'Neal, President
Stone Crab Alliance
Karen Dwyer, PhD., Co-founder
Visions Unlimited Productions, Inc.
Leslie Harris-Senac, Owner
Wakulla Springs Alliance
Robert Deyle, Chair
John Quarterman, Riverkeeper
Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration
Dan Hilliard, President