This week, the House State Affairs Committee passed a comprehensive water resources bill, which addresses a number of policy areas including water quality and quality; the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI); Lake Okeechobee and the Northern Everglades; springs protection, and surface water bodies. Some of the highlights are as follows:
Water Quality and Quantity: Requires DEP to revise Regional Water Supply Plans (RWSPs) to include projects identified in recovery or prevention strategies, and concurrent with the establishment of MFLs; requires notification when a CUP is denied so that DEP can review the RWSP; allows for consideration of preferred source status for self-suppliers (who cannot feasibly develop new water supplies); gives priority status to public-private partnerships to store, treat and recharge water supplies on agricultural lands.
CFWI: Provides for uniform regulatory program rules regarding groundwater assessment, definition of “harmful to the water resources,” permitting processes, and MFL and reservation determinations; provides for interagency agreement requirements for water supply planning.
Lake Okeechobee and Northern Everglades: Requires consistency with Lake Okeechobee BMAP (adopted in December, 2014) regarding protections, construction plans, future load reductions and incorporation of 5-year reevaluations; requires an assessment of phosphorus sources and evaluation of reduction technologies; agricultural BMPs; implementation of Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Research and Water Quality Programs and BMAPs with load reduction schedules.
Springs Protection: The bill provides for impairment assessments, TMDLs, BMAPs, MFLs, and recovery and prevention strategies on all “Priority Florida Springs” which include all first magnitude springs and all second magnitude springs on state or federal conservation lands. The bill provides that DEP, DACS, and water management districts prioritize projects and financial assistance to reduce nutrient loading, to include agricultural BMPs, septic tank connections, stormwater improvements, and fertilizer restrictions. MFLs and BMAPs must include priority project listings, capitol costs, and sources of financial assistance.
Surface Water: Requires DEP to adopt by rule a classification to protect surface water providing potable public water supply.