Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: No time to waste in springs' restoration

The legislative session is nearly half-finished and still there is no serious movement toward repairing Florida's springs. With $4 billion in new revenue from a rebounding economy, there is enough money for lawmakers to make a serious down payment on restoration that is critical to the environment, public health and the economy.

Florida's gin-clear springs once attracted presidents, movie stars and hordes of visitors, helping put the Sunshine State on the map and fashioning the state's modern tourist economy. But many springs are dry shadows of their former selves, choked with nutrient pollution, salt and other byproducts of reckless growth and overpumping. Runoff from leaky septic tanks, cattle pastures and farms and lawns has caused many of the state's 1,000 springs to become smothered in toxic algae blooms. Compounding the damage, the water in many springs no longer boils up like a fountain, as it had for centuries. The decrease in water flow and quality damages business and property, threatens the drinking water supply and puts Florida at greater risk of sinkhole activity.

A state-sponsored effort to save the springs, launched 12 years ago by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, ended in 2011 under Gov. Rick Scott. The Bush program spent $25 million on springs-related work, more than double what Scott has spent over the past two years. Scott's budget contains $6 million for springs restoration over the next year. That is far short of the $122 million price tag that the state's five water management districts put on an initial work plan for springs recovery. The state may not be able to catch up on springs restoration overnight, but it can make a meaningful down payment.

Identical legislation in the House and Senate (HB 789/SB 978) offers a good starting point. The measures call on the water management districts to develop a five-year plan for restoring the springs' water quality and flow levels by July 2014. The bills give the districts the ability to tailor the restoration work to the needs of their individual water sheds, and they require monitoring on a regular basis so the public can ensure the cleanup effort stays on course.

Reviving the springs to a shadow of their former glory requires work across a broader front, from replacing millions of older septic tanks to walling off land surrounding the springs to new development. Lawmakers, though, should not use the size of the job as an excuse to not take the first step. Scott should make the springs a priority, and the Legislature should give the water management districts the money to jump-start the restoration.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

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Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18