Sen. Lee Constantine's effort to get his springs bill attached to a Florida Department of Environmental Protection bill (SB 2104) failed today by a 19-13 vote. SB 274 by Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, would regulate nitrogen releases to groundwater from farms, sewage treatment plants and septic tanks. Scientists say increasing nitrogen in groundwater fuels the growth of weeds and algae in springs across the state. Developers and home-builders have challenged the cost to septic tank owners, though Constantine said septic tanks can be upgraded for less than has been estimated. "You have a DEP package here that has a lot of good stuff in it," Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said in speaking against the amendment. "This bill or this amendment really should stand on its own two feet because there is a significant amount of policy change in this amendment."
An amendment to the same DEP bill to block the state's purchase of U.S. Sugar Corp. land in the Everglades also failed, this time by a 21-16 vote. The South Florida Water Management District is considering a revised deal to purchase 72,500 acres for $533 million. The deal, like an earlier more expensive proposal, faces opposition from some legislators and local officials in Hendry County who say it's too expensive and will cost jobs. The amendment by Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, would attempt to block water management districts from using such a "certificate of participation" for issuing bonds without approval from the Legislature. "We need to protect the taxpayers of the state of Florida," Dockery said. Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, responded that the proposed purchase is "one of the most important initiatives historically we will ever see in our lifetime."
Florida will receive $250 million from the federal stimulus package for civil works projects in Florida including $96 million for Everglades restoration, state officials said today. Florida DEP Secretary Mike Sole and South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Carol Wehle said the stimulus money would provide economic and environmental benefits for the South Florida ecosystem. "This funding will be instrumental in putting people to work by improving Florida’s infrastructure for flood protection and navigation, as well as protecting and restoring Florida’s vast natural resources," they said in a jointly-issued statement. "We especially appreciate the Administration’s attention and efforts to move Everglades Restoration forward with this critical funding."