Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bad House Water bill HB 7003 passes 106-9

HB 7003 Water Resources by Rep. Matt Caldwell passed the full House by a vote of 106-9.    The bill will now go to the Senate where it will have to be matched up to SB 918 Environmental Resources by Sen. Dean, chairman of the Senate’s environmental committee.  Sen. Dean’s bill is a better bill that tracks the progress made on last year’s springs bill. 

SB 918 was workshopped last week in the Environmental Protection and Conservation Committee. Committee members discussed the bill and asked questions but no votes were taken.  It will be workshopped again this Wednesday, March 11 from 2-4 p.m.

Sierra Club Florida and our environmental allies will be working for a good outcome of any compromise legislation between the two chambers. Both chambers have to pass identical language for it to become law so this fight isn’t over.  The bills will bounce back and forth between the House and Senate – probably late in session since the Senate is giving give water policy a thorough and deliberate examination in the committee process.   Watch for coming alerts.

Please thank these Representatives for standing strong for good water policy!
HD 43    Rep. John Cortes                      850-717-5043
HD 99    Rep. Evan Jenne                       850-717-5099
HD 84    Rep. Larry Lee                         850-717-5084
HD 86    Rep. Mark Pafford                   850-717-5086
HD 9      Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda   850-717-5009
HD 112  Rep. José Rodríguez                 850-717-5112
HD 48    Rep. Victor Torres                    850-717-5048
HD 107  Rep. Barbara Watson                850-717-5107
HD 20    Rep. Clovis Watson                  850-717-5020

Rep. Dudley also spoke strongly against the bill but was distracted by another member at the time of the vote and pushed the wrong button.  He immediately filed the form to change his vote from Yes to No.  He is on the right side of the issue.

Problems with the recently passed HB 7003:
·         Minimum Flows and Levels should be set at the point where further reductions in water flow or water level begins to harm the water resource or its surrounding ecology.
·         The efficacy of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to achieve water quality standards must be verified; inadequate BMPs must be updated, and DEP, WMD, and local buffer zones or setbacks should be increased where necessary.
·         Water conservation should be the first strategy for water supply and prevention should be the first strategy for water quality
·         New demands for water should not trigger an automatic commitment to increase water supply at taxpayer or ratepayer expense.  Instead, approval of applications for Consumptive Use Permits (CUPs) should be based on the capacity of the resource to meet the needs of natural systems and existing legal users.
·         DEP and WMDs should remain responsible for water quality and water supply 
·         Allows continued pollution from sewage sludge, new septic systems, wastewater treatment facilities, and animal feedlots in springhseds of Priority Florida Springs
·         Weakens and delays cleanup of Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed by setting aside the Works of the District Rule in favor of a weaker and ineffective BMAP.

Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs).  
MFLs should be set at the level at which further reduction in either the flow (of a moving body of water like a spring or river) or the level (such as a lake or groundwater) would be harmful to the water resource and the ecology of the area.  The current “significantly harmful” standard ensures that the MFL will always be set somewhere in harmful territory.  Legal users (holders of consumptive use permits (CUPs)) are protected from negative consequences and natural systems should be as well.

Same old same old
Polluters in Florida have learned how to divert or delay best management practices (BMPs), Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), and Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPS) and HB 7003 leaves these tools vulnerable to their tricks.  As a result we still have thousands of impaired water body segments!  

BMPs must be targeted to meet specific water quality standards.  Their efficacy must be monitored and verified and, if inadequate, upgraded.  Surface water bodies, groundwater, and sensitive areas should be protected by appropriate buffer zones and setbacks that are developed and strictly enforced by DEP, water management districts, and local governments. Similarly, there have to be solid and meaningful deadlines for meeting water quality standards.

Failure to protect and restore Florida’s waters can only damage our tourism and water-based recreational and commercial industries.  No one visits Florida because of our roads.

Water Conservation
Water conservation should be the first strategy employed with respect to water supply.  HB 7003 hardly mentions conservation at all, even though it is the lowest hanging fruit.  There should be incentives for low flow fixtures (faucets and toilets) that would have a long term impact on the amount of water used in the state. Consumptive Use Permits should include a requirement for a water conservation plan that will be followed by the permitee, and a fee should be charged for all withdrawn water (with a reduction in cost for permitees who further reduce their use voluntarily to incentivize conservation.) 

HB 7003 looks at water supply as a matter of responding to all demands for water as an inescapable mandate to develop more water supply, regardless of the cost to taxpayers.  Consumptive use permit applicants should be required to tailor their requests for water to what is available, or to obtain their water from alternative sources.

Similarly, prevention is the best cure for water quality.  Keep pollutants out of the water to begin with to safeguard health, save tax dollars, and maintain a welcoming business climate.

DEP and WMDs should retain authority over water quality and water quantity
There is an inherent conflict of interest between DACS promoting agriculture and being responsible for ensuring water quality.  This conflict is shown explicitly in this quote from the HB 7003 Committee Substitute 1  
on lines 2190-2194:
373.809 Agricultural best management practices for springs protection.—
(1) Best management practices for agricultural discharges shall reflect a balance between water quality improvements in Priority Florida Springs and agricultural productivity.
BMPs should be designed to protect and restore water quality in Priority Florida Springs first and foremost.

The primary responsibility for water quality protection and supply should lie with DEP and the WMDs.  They should be required to enforce the laws and regulations on the books and funded sufficiently to do it effectively.