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FSC and 59 other organizations ask Governor DeSantis to VETO the "Clean Waterways Act"

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

Governor DeSantis:

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.

Sincerely,

Apalachicola Riverkeeper

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

Earthjustice

Alisa Coe, Staff Attorney

Emerald Coastkeeper

Laurie Murphy, Executive Director

Englewood Indivisible

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

Gullah/Geechee Nation

Queen Quet, Chieftess

Healthy Gulf

Christian Wagley, Coastal Organizer

Hernando Environmental Land Protectors

Charles Morton, President

Hillsborough Democratic Environmental Caucus

Russell Conn, Chair

Homosassa River Alliance

Frank Kapocsi, President

Ichetucknee Alliance

John D. Jopling, President

IDEAS for Us

Clayton Louis Ferrara, Executive Director

Indivisible Clay County

Sandy Goldman, Chair

Indivisible FL13

Cynthia Lippert, Organizer

Indivisible St. Johns

Mary Lawrence, Founder

Indivisible Venice

Debra Schyvinck, Leadership Team

League of Women Voters, Lee County Patty Duncan, Environmental Chair

League of Women Voters Florida

Judith Hushon, Natural Resources Chair

Lee Future

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

Rebah Farm

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

WWALS

John Quarterman, Riverkeeper

Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration

Dan Hilliard, President