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President Office — Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 4, 2015

CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229


Senate Committee Passes Statewide Policy for Florida’s Water and Natural Resources

Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation Passes SB 552

Tallahassee —

The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, chaired by Senator Charlie Dean (R-Inverness), today passed Senate Bill 552, Environmental Resources, which provides for a statewide policy to restore and preserve Florida’s water and natural resources.

“Over the last three years, Senator Dean, Senator Simmons, Senator Simpson, Senator Hays, and Senator Montford have worked with Speaker Crisafulli, our colleagues in the House, Commissioner Putnam, and other dedicated stakeholders from across Florida to develop a statewide policy to restore and protect Florida’s water supply and natural resources,” said President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando). “I am pleased the legislation includes key provisions from the bills the House and Senate advanced last year and am particularly grateful to Senator Dean for his tireless work on this legislation.”

“This legislation represents a comprehensive plan to restore our unique springs to make sure they are preserved for the next generation of Floridians and visitors to our state,” said Senator Dean. “The bill will also help protect Florida’s Everglades and estuaries by ensuring we stick to our action plans and implement best management practices that will improve our water quality and make sure we have the clean water supply we need to accommodate the needs of a growing state.”

“This bill creates a transparent process to address water quality and quantity projects in Florida, so we can ensure we are making the best use of limited taxpayer dollars,” continued President Gardiner. “The legislation also expands access to public lands and will make information about conservation areas and recreational opportunities more readily available, so more Floridians will have the opportunity to enjoy the pristine environment the state has worked so hard to conserve.”

Public Access to Public Lands

The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to publish an online, publicly accessible database of conservation lands on which public access is compatible with conservation and recreation purposes. The bill requires the database to be available online by July 1, 2017. The database must include at a minimum: the location of the lands; the types of allowable recreational opportunities; the points of public access; facilities or other amenities; and land use restrictions. 

 

The bill also directs the DEP to create a downloadable mobile application to locate state lands available for public access using the user’s current location or activity of interest. Using a smartphone, users could locate recreational opportunities throughout Florida just as easily as people can currently locate hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.

Outstanding Florida Springs

SB 552 creates the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act to provide for the protection and restoration of Outstanding Florida Springs (OFSs).

The bill defines “Outstanding Florida Springs” to include all historic first magnitude springs, including their associated spring runs, as determined by the DEP using the most recent version of the Florida Geological Survey’s springs bulletin. The following springs and their associated spring runs are also considered OFSs: Deleon Springs, Peacock Springs, Poe Spring Rock Springs, Wekiwa Springs, and Gemini Springs.

Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection

SB 552 updates and restructures the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program to reflect and build upon the DEP’s completion of basin management action plans for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, and the St. Lucie River and Estuary, and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ implementation of best management practices;

Water Conservation and Water Supply
The bill requires additional information related to all water quality or water quantity projects as part of a 5-year work program. The following must be included in the Consolidated Water Management District Annual Report:

  • All projects identified to implement a Basin Management Action Plan or recovery or prevention strategy; 
  • Priority ranking of each listed project, for which state funding through the water resources development work program is requested, which must be available for public comment at least 30 days before submission of the consolidated annual report;
  • Estimated cost of each project;
  • Estimated completion date for each project;
  • Source and amount of financial assistance that will be made available by the DEP, a water management district (WMD), or some other entity for each project;
  • A quantitative estimate of each project’s benefit to the watershed, waterbody, or water segment in which it is located;
  • And, a grade for each watershed, waterbody, or water segment where a project is located representing the level of impairment and violations of adopted or interim minimum flow or minimum water level.

SB 552 also creates a pilot program for an alternative water supply in restricted allocation areas, a pilot program for innovative nutrient and sediment reduction and conservation, and revises certain considerations for water resource permits.

Annual Review of Water Supply and Conservation Lands 

The legislation requires the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) to conduct an annual assessment of water resources and conservation lands and modifies water supply and resource planning and processes to make them more stringent.

Concerning water resources, the assessment must include:

  • Historical and current expenditures and projections of future expenditures by federal, state, regional, and local governments and public and private utilities based upon historical trends and ongoing projects or initiatives associated with water supply and demand and water quality protection and restoration;
  • An analysis and estimates of future expenditures necessary to comply with federal and state laws and regulations;
  • A compilation of projected water supply and demand data;
  • Forecasts of federal, state, regional, and local government revenues dedicated in current law for the purposes of the water supply demand and water quality protection and restoration, or that have been historically allocated for these purposes, as well as public and private utility revenues;
  • And, an identification of gaps between projected revenues and projected and estimated expenditures.

Concerning conservation lands, the assessment must include:

  • Historical and current expenditures and projections of future expenditures by federal, state, regional, and local governments based upon historical trends and ongoing projects or initiatives associated with real property interests eligible for funding under the Florida Forever Act;
  • An analysis and estimates of future expenditures necessary to purchase lands identified in plans produced by state agencies or WMDs;
  • An analysis of the ad valorem tax impacts, by county, resulting from public ownership of conservation lands;
  • Forecasts of federal, state, regional, and local government revenues dedicated in current law to maintain conservation lands and the gap between projected expenditures and revenues;
  • And, the total percentage of Florida real property that is publicly owned for conservation purposes.

SB 552 also requires the DEP to conduct a feasibility study for creating and maintaining a web-based, interactive map of the state’s waterbodies as well as regulatory information about each waterbody.

For more information on SB 552, please visit www.FLSenate.gov.

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