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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Florida Lawmakers Proposing a Salve for Ailing Springs

Published 4/15/2015
Today, Manatee Springs is one of the most polluted springs in the state.

Mark Long lives near Manatee Springs and has watched as pollution has taken its toll. Credit Edward Linsmier for The New York Times After years of discussion and inaction, four influential Republican State Senate committee chairmen and one Democratic chairman have signed off on an ambitious bill that would lay the groundwork for a long-term, comprehensive approach to restoring the state’s 38 most important and threatened springs. But the proposal, which has a price tag of $380 million for next year, requires concessions from agriculture, home builders, septic tank owners, property rights advocates and other powerful interests. And the measure poses a difficult test of whether divided Republican legislators have the will to address the problems in a comprehensive way.

At Manatee Springs, swimmers are warned of the possibility of rashes. In Ginnie Springs, a popular recreation area on private land, the owner is battling the state to do more to clean up the increasingly sullied water. Up north in Wakulla Springs, glass-bottom boats, once a favorite attraction, seldom run because the water is so murky.

The decay is not new. A Florida Springs Task Force report in 2000 detailed the declining health and its causes. But the situation has grown “much worse,” said the report’s author, Jim Stevenson, who until 2003 was chief biologist for the Florida State Park System under the state Department of Environmental Protection

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