FLORIDA TODAY: Moncrief: Florida waters to decline under new law

Florida Today: Written by Aliki Moncrief. August 28, 2017.

In the early weeks of the 2016 Florida Legislative Session, lawmakers passed a massive bill touted as “comprehensive” water policy. But, at a time when Florida needed robust and aggressive protections of our imperiled waters, Senate Bill 552 fell far short of meeting our current and future needs.

It may seem obvious, but the best way to safeguard our waters from fertilizers, pesticides, animal waste, and other agricultural pollution is to require polluting farms to meet water quality standards. That used to be the case for agricultural operations in the Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie, and Caloosahatchee watersheds.

Under the new law, polluting farms are presumed to meet water quality standards by merely following Best Management Practices (such as building fences to keep animals out of streams and lakes). The bill does not require monitoring or inspections and instead focuses on what amounts to voluntary pollution control strategies.

The Legislature has systematically for nearly a decade cut staff and reduced resources available to the agencies tasked with safeguarding our water supply and preventing pollution. Inspections and enforcement of pollution standards have dropped dramatically. The 2016 water bill puts Florida farther down a path of replacing actual pollution limits with an honor code.

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