Governor proposes more funds for springs restoration
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's springs are a hot commodity. While a number of companies want to pump water, environmental activists want to conserve it. Governor Rick Scott is proposing $1.6 billion to restore Florida springs. If this passes, North Central Florida water groups fear they won't get their fair share of the funding.
"It's precious and it's limited," said Steve Robitaille with the Florida Defenders of the Environment. With more than one thousand springs in Florida, experts believe the state has biggest congregation of springs in the world.
"Our water comes from the aquifer and the aquifers are now being stressed out due to periods of drought. Due to the fact that increasing populations are drawing more water out of the aquifers," Robitaille said.
Governor Rick Scott has highlighted a source of revenue that would provide $1.6 billion for the well-being of springs here in Florida over the next 20 years. Robitaille said, "As an organization that has been advocating for Florida waters for over four decades we are pleased to see that the legislature is doing this."
However others like Bob Knight, with the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute question the way the funds will be used. "There's no evidence right now that the money is being spent as effectively as it could be for springs protection. Because there is no plan in the governor’s office or with the department of environmental protection to really use the money effectively," Knight said.
Knight says that to ensure the money is being well spent a task force needs to be appointed. "If Rick Scott wants to take a lesson from Governor Jeb Bush he can re-establish the state's spring initiative and the Florida springs task force. They developed reports that were very detailed on how to spend money. But they only had two million dollars a year," Knight added.
Knight tells me springs advocacy groups in Florida are coming together to form the Florida Springs Council. Their first official meeting was a couple of weeks ago. Now there are representatives from 20 to 30 environmental groups across the state.
"I've already asked at the top people in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to designate Ichetucknee Springs as a special spring’s demonstration restoration and I hope that they will follow through with it. There's no evidence that they will," Knight said.
If Scott's proposal is approved by the legislature $50 million will go towards spring’s restoration next year.
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