Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Springs' aid 'doomed from the start' by House decision, advocate says (w/video)

Two months ago, when Florida's annual legislative session began, the effort to fix the state's ailing springs seemed to have a lot going for it. A coalition of powerful senators had drawn up a bill proposing a comprehensive approach to restoring their flow and cleaning up their ongoing pollution problem. Meanwhile Gov. Rick Scott had proposed spending $55 million on the problem this year.

But when the session ended late Friday, the springs bill was dead and Scott's proposed funding had been whittled down to $25 million for springs restoration and $5 million to help farmers clean up their own pollution near springs.

"I believe it was doomed from the start," said Estus Whitfield, a former gubernatorial aide turned springs advocate with the Florida Conservation Coalition.

The minute the senators unveiled their wide-ranging proposal, Whitfield said, "the lobbyists started to work on killing it." A cadre of business groups, including the Association of Florida Community Developers, the Florida Home Builders Association, the Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, opposed making any changes at all in state law to help springs, arguing the laws already on the books are sufficient.

Meanwhile House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said before the session began that his successor, Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, wanted to tackle the state's myriad water woes all at once — not just springs, but Everglades and other issues as well — next year, when he's in charge.

"The House sent a message from Day One that they wanted to wait until next year to take up all water policy issues so that Speaker-designate Crisafulli can make these issues his priority," said Audubon of Florida legislative director Mary Jean Yon.

So while the senators sweated over compromises to get their bill passed by the Senate in the final week of the session, the House version never got a single committee hearing, much less a floor vote. Crisafulli didn't like the multimillion-dollar price tag for replacing septic tanks and other pollution cleanup measures.

"When dealing with springs and other water issues, I think we need to carefully consider the impacts and costs our legislation could have on families, businesses and local governments," Crisafulli said Monday. The industry groups had a similar objection.

Although the state has more than 1,000 freshwater springs — generally hailed as the greatest concentration of springs in the world — many are suffering from nitrate pollution that fuels the growth of toxic algae blooms.

Compounding the problem is a decline in their flow that in some cases resulted in them sputtering out completely or reversing flow. State geologists have also found a disturbing increase in saltiness in a few freshwater springs, which could signal future problems with the state's drinking supply.

Because many of the springs are major tourist draws, both for the ones that are privately owned and for the ones that are part of the state park system, their environmental woes have an economic impact.

The original version of the Senate bill called for earmarking about $378 million per year from documentary stamp taxes for sewage hookups and septic tank improvements in springs areas. It also would have required the state Department of Environmental Protection to create "protection and management zones" for 38 of the state's most prominent springs. Most homes in those zones would have been required to hook up to a central sewer line.

Despite the bill's defeat, one of the Senate sponsors, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said it was a battle worth fighting. Solutions to complex issues usually take more than one year to get legislative approval in Florida, he said, "and I think we made major headway this year. I think we're on the right path."

Comments
Lightning to face Bruins in East semifinals

Lightning to face Bruins in East semifinals

The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 7-4 in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday night and will face the Lightning in the Eastern Conference semifinals beginning Saturday at Amalie Arena.Here is the semifinal schedule:Saturday: at Tampa, 3...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for April 25

Wednesday’s scoreboardBaseballCanterbury 5, Shorecrest 4SoftballClass 6A, District 6 Semifinal: Springstead 10, Citrus 0
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

TAMPA – This is the Rubiks Cube of NFL drafts. It can be twisted and turned it in any direction. Not many know how everything will line up.For the Bucs, the puzzle is simple.  Since they have the No. 7 overall pick, they need four quarterb...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Comeback doesn’t come close to describing Jonny Venters return to majors with Rays

Comeback doesn’t come close to describing Jonny Venters return to majors with Rays

BALTIMORE — First, think of what you were doing on Oct. 5, 2012, and how much has happened in your own world since then.That will give you a time frame.Next, think of the challenge of rehabbing from two Tommy John surgeries and a third procedur...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Softball: Boca Ciega edges Tarpon Springs for 6A-9 title

Softball: Boca Ciega edges Tarpon Springs for 6A-9 title

DUNEDIN — It's hard to believe that we'll see a more emotional, more exciting game than this one throughout the rest of the postseason.Top seed Tarpon Springs and No. 2 Boca Ciega were fearless with the Class 6A-9 title on the line Wednesd...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Rays Journal: A win over ex-mate Cobb, and in a record way

BALTIMORE – The Rays knew there would be all kinds of mixed feeling seeing longtime former teammate Alex Cobb pitching against them in Orioles orange.And they made sure he didn't enjoy it.The Rays knocked Cobb out in the fifth inning, and rolle...
Updated: 2 hours ago
VA nominee considers withdrawing as new allegations emerge of drinking, wrecking government vehicle

VA nominee considers withdrawing as new allegations emerge of drinking, wrecking government vehicle

WASHINGTON — White House physician Ronny Jackson has grown frustrated with the nomination process to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs and has told colleagues he may remove his name from consideration, two White House officials with knowledge o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
A religious group has settled in a big pink house in Clearwater. Neighbors aren’t happy.

A religious group has settled in a big pink house in Clearwater. Neighbors aren’t happy.

CLEARWATER — The first thing John Trevena noticed about his new neighbors was the color of their house: Pepto-Bismol pink.It didn’t worry Trevena, a criminal defense lawyer who moved into the three-bedroom rental home next door in 2015."I knew it was...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pasco corporal who took down student on video now cleared (w/video)

Pasco corporal who took down student on video now cleared (w/video)

LAND O’LAKES — Kayla Peña filled up her water bottle then returned to her lunch table at Sunlake High School when she heard a commotion in the cafeteria on Tuesday afternoon.A female student was riled up, walking back and forth, Peña said, screaming ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Updated: 5 hours ago