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Springs cleanup proposal faces another delay

From the News Service of Florida:

The behind-the-scenes filtering continues on a $378.8 million measure aimed at restoring and protecting Florida's natural springs.

Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, temporarily postponed the proposal (SB 1576) from making its first appearance of the legislative session Thursday in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. Influential business groups have opposed the measure.

"We had hoped today we would have our bill coming out in a more finalized version," said Dean, chairman of the committee. "But as of the last week or 10 days of working in this area, we still feel that there are improvements that need to be made, and we have not tied the last of the issues together."

The wide-ranging proposal, which Dean and a group of senators have been working on for months, was introduced Feb. 28. Gov. Rick Scott has requested $55 million in the 2014-15 state budget for springs protection, up from $10 million in the current year.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has said water-policy issues may have to wait until the 2015 session, when Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, take over the leadership of their respective chambers. Crisafulli and Gardiner have said they want to make water a priority.

The springs proposal would require local governments within the state's most-prominent springs zones to enact ordinances on fertilizer use. Also, it would require wastewater treatment plants to reduce the amount of nitrogen released in treated water and agricultural operations to follow "best-management practices." The proposal also would require state and local governments to cover the costs of connecting residential properties to sewer systems where older septic systems are determined to be impacting area waters.