Water-policy momentum grows as Scott proposes $55 million in springs protection

In another step marking water management as a top priority of the 2014 session, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday announced $55 million in proposed funding to restore and protect for Florida’s springs.

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Photo: Southernhistory.blogspot.com
Silver Springs near Ocala.

Speaking at a Department of Environmental Protection awards ceremony in Tallahassee, Scott called the proposal an “investment [that] will enable state and local partners to protect the quality and quantity of water that flows from our springs,” according to a news release.

“These springs are important not only to animal and plant life, but also add to Florida’s ever-expanding tourism industry,” Scott said in the release.

The $55 million proposal includes $25 million for protection and restoration, $25 million for areas where springs are threatened to develop alternative water sources, and $5 million for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to work with commercial agriculture – Florida’s second largest industry – to improve irrigation and fertilizer practices to reduce runoff into the state’s groundwater and rivers, according to the release.

In a separate release, Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said the announcement indicates Scott understands “the importance of Florida’s unique and treasured natural resources.”

“This is a significant financial investment in protecting and restoring Florida’s springs,” Draper said.

Scott’s announcement Tuesday is part of a series of public statements pushing water to the top of the legislative agenda this year. In a November session with the media, for instance, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called for a statewide approach to water management.

And in the Daily Commercial on Tuesday, state Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla, and Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, the House speaker designate, said water is the lifeblood of Florida’s tourism and agricultural industries.

“It goes without saying that water is the most critical and precious resource we have,” Crisafulli told the newspaper. “It’s what we depend on to live, it sustains our rich agricultural history, and it is what makes Florida such an attractive tourist destination.”

Hays told the Daily Commercial that water management is “perhaps one of the most complex if not the most complex issue facing the Legislature in the next four to five years.”

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