Wave Maker’s News: The Good, Bad and Ugly of FL’s Legislative Session

This article is excerpted from Wave Maker’s News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here.Citizens at the state capital take a stand for healthy water. Photo courtesy of Cathy Harrelson.As the Florida 2012 legislative session wrapped up in March, one thing was very clear: many state leaders are deadset on waging a war on healthy water in the state. However, despite some setbacks, GRN and our conservation allies were still able to score some victories for the health of the state’s waters and wetlands.First, the good news. A coalition of concerned groups, citizens, and elected officials were once again able to fight off legislation that would strip local governments of the ability to limit nitrogen and phosphorous pollution from fertilizer. These local fertilizer ordinances are a cost-effective tool for city and county governments to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous pollution, and GRN will continue to work with local leaders to implement them in their communities.There were also two victories in the effort to protect the state’s five water management districts from budget caps and undue interference from the Governor and legislators, and ensure that water withdrawal permits are standardized throughout the state. Although they don’t always live up to their mission, the water management districts, among other things, are tasked with setting minimum flows and levels in waterways that protect against “significant ecological harm.”Now, for some of the setbacks. Attempts to strip local governments of their ability to protect their communities against pollution have been a consistent threat in the legislature, and sadly, they succeeded in passing a bill that would prevent inspections of the state’s 1.7 million oldest septic systems, even if local communities want to make that a priority. Finally, one of the most stunning actions was a memorial (a non-binding resolution directed at Congress) in opposition to a United States Fish and Wildlife Service plan to protect manatees by requiring a slow zone for marine traffic in Citrus County’s King’s Bay. As the war against healthy water continues, GRN will continue to fight to protect Florida’s beautiful and wild rivers, lakes, streams and estuaries.Cathy Harrelson is GRN’s Florida Organizer.

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