On Thursday, January 9, Senator Simmons released a REVISED DRAFT of the Springs Protection Bill after considering the many comments received from stakeholder groups including the Florida Association of Counties. Although we are still reviewing the document, some of the key points are as follows:
- Funds would be allocated from Documentary Stamp revenues, and placed into the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust fund for restoration and protection of Outstanding Florida Springs, as defined.
- Membership of the Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) will be increased by one to include a DEP representative with expertise in water quality. The ARC will evaluate and rank projects eligible for springs funding.
- The ARC will develop rules for evaluation and ranking projects, and for pilot projects designed to test nutrient reduction technologies. A minimum of two pilot projects must be approved each cycle. Minimum evaluation criteria is enumerated in the legislation (including MFL compliance, levels of impairment, presence of BMAPs, prioritization in regional water supply plans, matching funds, etc.).
- “Outstanding Florida Springs” are defined to include all first magnitude springs as well as DeLeon, Peacock, Rock, Wekiwa and Gemini Springs. By July 1, 2015, DEP shall delineate springs protection zones, and water management districts shall establish MFLs for each of these springs. By 2017, the DEP must develop BMAPs for each of the Outstanding Florida Springs, identifying load allocations for fertilizer, animal waste, septic tanks, wastewater treatment facilities, and stormwater.
- Each local government located within a springs protection zone must meet the minimum requirements of the Model Fertilizer Ordinance, including a requirement of 50% slow release nitrogen.
- In BMAP areas: Septic tanks must be connected to central sewer systems “where available” or otherwise upgraded to meet 3 mg/l nitrogen limit at the property boundary by 2019 (at no cost to property owners); WWTPs must meet 3 mg/L nitrogen standard by 2019; and all agriculture producers must implement BMPs within 2 years.
- Local governments, water management districts, utilities and agricultural producers must submit project proposals to the ARC for reimbursement up to 75%, with the exception of septic tank upgrades and connections, which are eligible for 100% funding.
Please remember that this is still a DRAFT BILL, which has not been filed. We expect to participate in stakeholder meetings with Senator Simmons and other interested parties in the very near future. A full copy of the DRAFT will be sent to each county and we look forward to your comments and concerns.