Water is a precious commodity. Just ask the residents of Flint, Michigan.
Rules, restrictions and regulations should be in place to help preserve our supply. Too bad last week Floridians were robbed of an opportunity to ensure the state's future water supply. What a shame.
A majority of lawmakers approved SB 552. They called it a major milestone in addressing our water quality concerns in north, central and South Florida, but even though it's actually a major mistake, Gov. Rick Scott quickly signed it instead of giving it a deserved veto.
The original bill began as an ambitious plan to clean up Florida springs, rivers and lakes and protect aquifers. But it became so flawed in the legislative process that former Florida senator and governor Bob Graham sent a letter to Gov. Scott imploring him not to sign the bill, which he said "blatantly" favors special interests, ties the hands of local water management districts and could saddle taxpayers with the cost of pollution clean-ups.
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"This bill leaves the people and businesses of Florida unprepared to meet the water challenges of the 21st century," Graham wrote in a letter also signed by more than 100 advocacy groups. It did no good.
Graham, one of Florida's best governors, said he's not giving up and neither should Floridians who care about every aspect of our water -- and that should be every single one of us.
Graham said the new policy "represents a purposeful effort to weaken protection and management of Florida's water resources." The bad policy goes a step further in its insult: It does nothing to curb water consumption in a state that now has 19 million residents and little to curb the flow of pollutants into our waterways.
Instead, the new water policy is a wet kiss to the agriculture industry: It allows the industry to monitor itself by loosening pollution enforcement standards and relying on so-called "best management practices." It gives large water users decades to meet their clean-up goals. Are there fines or sanctions built in to guarantee stakeholders are following the rules? Absolutely not. What a deal.
The law could also derail efforts to repair the Everglades by setting up new timelines for cleaning up Lake Okeechobee, where levels of phosphorus from decades of farming and nearby urban runoff continue to rise.
Oh, and there's also a financial slap in the face to taxpayers: There is a "cost sharing" program that actually requires water management districts to subsidize the agriculture industry's pollution control efforts. Yes, the taxpayers of Florida will pay so the agriculture industry can clean up their mess. Please!
How did this legislation go astray? The bill started out as a vision to create "a legacy" water policy that would preserve and clean up our waterways and aquifer and seriously fund the undertaking after voters passed Amendment 1 to create a permanent, dedicated source of money.
Then Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, unveiled a "historic" plan he said would "modernize" Florida's water policy. But the legislation was hijacked by special interests led by Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber and the Florida Farm Bureau. Amendment efforts by Democrats were ignored.
The flawed water policy, coupled with diversion of Amendment 1 money, leaves voters' hopes for the state's life-sustaining water resources high and dry. Thanks, Tallahassee.