On June 30th, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a historic bill titled the Clean Waterways Act, SB 712 to protect Florida’s water quality and conserve the state’s natural resources. The bill was sponsored by Senator Debbie Mayfield and Representative Bobby Payne.
Governor DeSantis remarked that “Our children and future generations serve as a stark reminder of what’s at stake when discussing the importance of a clean, healthy and stable environmental foundation for their future.”
Noah Valenstein, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), added that SB 712 will focus on remedial action and improvements to regulations regarding septic systems, wastewater infrastructure as well as Agriculture’s Best Management Practices.
Some of SB 712’s primary components include: regulation of septic tanks as a source of nutrients and transfer of oversight from Department of Health (DOH) to Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and update stormwater rules and design criteria to improve the performance of stormwater systems statewide to specifically address nutrients.
According to the bill’s lead sponsor, Senator Debbie Mayfield, “This comprehensive legislation addresses the serious sources of pollution contributing to algae blooms in our waterways including septic tanks, wastewater treatment facilities, stormwater runoff and agriculture.
In other words, all likely water pollution sources are covered. With a transfer of responsibility to the Dept. of Environmental Protection, Florida will most likely expect more focus and less political obstruction regarding the science of water impairment and its causes.
Does This Matter to Marco Island?
Data collected locally over several years has shown that our waterways are “impaired,” a term that indicates chronic water quality issues. Marco’s waters are already included on a list maintained by the State, known as “the 303(d) list”, a list of ‘impaired waters’ required by Federal law.
An often-asked question from Marco residents is the need to address neighboring municipalities, such as Goodland, Capri, that contribute to the water quality issues here.
It is not clear from SB 712, how it is going to deal with watersheds that are contributing significantly to the nutrient pollution or where septic and sewer improvements are deemed necessary to cut pollution from these sources. These projects come at significant costs to residents—is the legislation going to create a wastewater grant program to help defray these costs?
In addition, aside from state engagement, the US Army Corps of Engineers working with Collier County is proposing an enormous “Coastal Storm Risk Management” project which includes Marco. If adopted, then participation is mandatory, compulsory property purchase is on the table in some locations, as is a 12-foot tall sand berm along Marco’s beaches. Local water quality analysis is an inevitable component.
So, please encourage City engagement with both County and State. In Florida, when it comes to water, “It is a Matter of OUR Survival.”