The once-powerful springs are slackening. Marble-white marl river beds are growing a sickly greener by the day. And, alas, "catfish football" is no longer part of the tour at Silver Springs.
Sen. Lee Constantine recalled the bygone era of a more pristine Florida at the Senate Select Committee on Florida’s Inland Waterways this morning, remembering the days when tour guides at the springs would toss balls of dough into the water for the brim and catfish to battle over.
“They don’t play catfish football anymore. They don’t do it anymore because there aren’t enough fish,” Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, said. “It’s a sad commentary.”
Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, noted that the Legislature cut money for cleaning up waterways. For every $1 from the state, the program received $4 from water management districts and local governments. In FY 2006, the state budgeted $200 million. This year: 0.
“When we cut funding from Senate Bill 444, it was the worst budget decision in my 13 years in the Legislature... a decision we should all feel responsible and sadly about,” she said.
Other committee members said they, too, were concerned about the amount and quality of water in Florida’s springs. But whether all the lamentations will turn into action to clean up Florida’s springs is tough to say. The feds are trying to mandate stricter nutrient-loading requirements for Florida’s waterways, and business groups are screaming that it’s a useless job killer.
"This terrible regulation is not needed because Florida nutrient standards are perfectly adequate," said Jim Alves, a lobbyist who represents power companies and wastewater utilities. "The science isn't there to do this regulation."
More here on that.