While environmentalists criticize water policy plans, they draw defender in Putnam
Environmentalists held news conferences around Florida Wednesday critical of legislation cast as the state’s centerpiece effort to protect endangered waterways and springs.
“In their current forms, these bills will not protect the citizens of Florida or our natural resources,” said Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation for the Save the Manatee Club.
The club was among 106 organizations and businesses that signed onto a letter sent to Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, that cite problems with the major water proposals, (SB 552, HB 7005).
The measures cover stormwater management, springs’ protection, water supply and the always combative intersection of agriculture and environment around Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie River estuaries.
A similar effort failed to clear the Legislature earlier this year. But it’s been retooled and, supporters say, toughened.
The latest proposals also require the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research to provide an annual assessment of the state’s water resources and conservation lands — a step seen as helping keep the state’s water woes at the forefront.
Environmental groups Wednesday, however, said the push is “undermined by loopholes” and cite 11 areas of concern that need work.
Separately, though, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the legislation assured that Florida was headed toward “measurable progress.”
“There will be measurable progress toward…closing the gap of a 1.3 billion gallon per day shortfall of water to support people, agriculture and the environment,” Putnam said in a meeting with reporters at the Capitol.
“This bill is a heavy lift. It fell apart last year because it is a significant water policy that is comprehensive and statewide in nature….If it were easy, it would be sailing through. It does things, which is why it is meriting a lot of scrutiny,” he concluded.