By Bruce Ritchie
Gov. Charlie Crist on Monday voiced support for state legislation intended to protect Florida's springs, saying they're an important part of the state's tourism economy.
The Tampa Tribune Monday published an editorial urging support for a bill filed by Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, that would established "protection zones" around four Florida springs. A similar bill introduced earlier this year by Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, died in the Legislature.
Asked whether he would support a stronger push for the bill in the coming year, Crist said, "Yeah, sure I would."
"I love our springs and our rivers and our estuaries," Crist said. "I think it's important to do everything we can, not only from an environmental point of view to keep Florida beautiful -- it helps our economy too. Tourism is important."
Constantine, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, said he's introduced Saunders' bill as a "placeholder" this year until a new springs bill can be written.
Saunders' bill required the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to establish springs protection boundaries around Silver and Rainbow springs in Marion County. He let it die after some builders voiced concerns about the cost of advanced septic systems to protect groundwater flowing from springs.
Constantine's bill also would include Ichetucknee Springs in Columbia County and Wakulla Springs in Wakulla County. They were included in a failed springs bill that was introduced in 2007 by then Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon.
State agencies, water-management districts and local governments are required under Constantine's bill to cooperatively set pollution limits within the springs' protection boundaries.
"We are not concentrating or spending enough time on our springs," Constantine told the Ocala Star-Banner earlier this month. "We are losing these valuable resources. I honestly feel this could be the first step and look at the water policy we need for protection and growth. This could be a broader opportunity."
Crist said Florida's tourist attractions may be more appealing as the rest of the country shivers through a cold winter.
"I don't know if you watched TV this week or this weekend and have seen what it's like up North," he said. "I think a lot of people are going to be coming to Florida, and I certainly hope they do."
Contact independent journalist Bruce Ritchie at 850-385-1774 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Photo and text copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie