Times Editorial: No time to waste in springs’ restoration
The legislative session is nearly half-finished and still there is no serious movement toward repairing Florida’s springs. With $4 billion in new revenue from a rebounding economy, there is enough money for lawmakers to make a serious down payment on restoration that is critical to the environment, public health and the economy.
Florida’s gin-clear springs once attracted presidents, movie stars and hordes of visitors, helping put the Sunshine State on the map and fashioning the state’s modern tourist economy. But many springs are dry shadows of their former selves, choked with nutrient pollution, salt and other byproducts of reckless growth and overpumping. Runoff from leaky septic tanks, cattle pastures and farms and lawns has caused many of the state’s 1,000 springs to become smothered in toxic algae blooms. Compounding the damage, the water in many springs no longer boils up like a fountain, as it had for centuries. The decrease in water flow and quality damages business and property, threatens the drinking water supply and puts Florida at greater risk of sinkhole activity.
A state-sponsored effort to save the springs, launched 12 years ago by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, ended in 2011 under Gov. Rick Scott. The Bush program spent $25 million on springs-related work, more than double what Scott has spent over the past two years. Scott’s budget contains $6 million for springs restoration over the next year. That is far short of the $122 million price tag that the state’s five water management districts put on an initial work plan for springs recovery. The state may not be able to catch up on springs restoration overnight, but it can make a meaningful down payment.