Water issues will define 2014 session, both parties in Tallahassee

Everglades_swampOh, I know that in one’s youth that beauty, justice, truth / Seem to be what life is all about.
But when the facts are faced, you realize that life is based / On water coming in and going out.

“The Plumber is the Man” by Garrison Keillor

Due to national attention regarding Florida’s choking waterways it’s now fashionable again, for the first time in decades, to talk like an environmentalist in the Florida legislature.

Anyway you look at it water is one of the most critical issues facing Florida in the near future, if not the most critical.

Last month Speaker Will Weatherford appeared to punt on the issue until next year:

“It’s not that we’re not going to deal with water this year. We absolutely will. A lot of the issues we’ll deal with have to do with funding,” Weatherford said.

“I think we’ll tee up some policy, but I think the really big, meaty, holistic policy initiatives when it  comes to water … and the long-term, 20-year plans will likely come in the next session.”

However, it seems likely the Legislature will have to tackle issues impacting two critical ecosystems- the Indian River Lagoon and Everglades in some form this year.

While bigger policy changes including minimum discharge levels, groundwater and minimum flows taking on polluters directly will be put off until next season, look  for legislators to fund as much $40 million to deal with pollution-fueled blooms in the Indian River Lagoon. This issue has exploded to the point where even conservative Republicans on the Space Coast are concerned that waiting another year will be disastrous.

Unprepared to take on polluters yet concerned about the Everglades, the state is expected to provide upwards of $100 million to clean up discharge from Lake Okeechobee that is flowing into the Everglades, the Caloosahatchee River and St Lucie River.

Another issue worth following is springs protection as many business leaders have expressed concern to legislative leaders about the lack of effort by the state on this issue.

This is a bipartisan problem needing a bipartisan solution. Leadership is needed from both parties on water related difficulties facing the state. Unfortunately, the leadership in both parties either out deference to campaign contributors or for some other reason seem to avoid active discussion on these matters.  Yet nobody wants to be seen as bad on environmental issues meaning we are hearing more productive conversation if not action about the looming water crisis than in many years.

So while next session might be “the water session,” this session will provide an important precursor. We’ll be following water issues very closely this session here at The Florida Squeeze.  Stay tuned for updates.


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