AMENDMENT ONE. Water & Land Legacy Amendment.
As expected, Amendment One passed. As expected, there are already palms out looking for funding from this multi-million dollar budget set-aside. During the next session, we expect many legislators to target this money pot to fund “water and land legacy” projects. With the legacy so ill-defined, due diligence is what is required. That’s our priority for the upcoming legislative session. Driving the priority setting process is a common sense and ethical consideration – just because there is money available, wasting it on unnecessary or unproductive projects is not acceptable. Science must be sound. Solutions should be cost-effective. Results should be predictable and attainable, or accountability for spending tax-payer dollars is not possible.
Count on it, there will be another Springs Protection bill, like last year’s SB 1576. The plan has already been floated to pull Amendment One money to fund the 2015 version of SB1576 – in the name of protecting water resources for future generations.
A little history on SB 1576, last year’s bill ….it was fatally flawed and carried with it a $47 billion price tag – half the entire state budget – to convert septic systems to sewers or advanced treatment systems. It passed unanimously in the Senate, but failed when funding was pulled. It should have failed for lack of logic! The problem with that forced “solution” is that it begins with a questionable premise – that significant improvement to the nitrogen problem in our springs can be accomplished by eliminating all conventional septic systems. That premise does not have a basis in sound science. There is a whole body of existing research that contradicts this premise. To ignore it is a disservice to our citizens.
In the past six years, I have reviewed countless research papers and government websites, attended meetings and more meetings. Any legislator or legislative aide has access to the same information. I can and will say that the evidence still points to septic systems being the least significant source of nitrogen to our springs and waterways. On the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) website, under the tab “Florida Springs Initiative” is a mission statement every legislator should read before policy and spending priorities are considered, much less voted on:
“Resources should be focused on where they are needed most and where they can be best applied to achieve the greatest, most efficient results.”
In the meantime, the first pre-session Senate Environmental Protection and Conservation (EP) meeting was held on 1/7/15. You can review the meeting packet information: http://www.flsenate.gov/PublishedContent/Committees/2014-2016/EP/MeetingRecords/MeetingPacket_2736.pdf
The presentation slides included in this packet from the EP staff are worth reviewing. It is an overview of the “buckets” of projects that are considered part of Amendment One spending possibilities. Audio of the meeting is also available: http://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/EP/Audio/2736
Senator Charlie Dean has announced a website has been created to allow citizens to monitor the activities of the Environmental Protection and Conservation Committee which has been given the responsibility to create legislation to implement Amendment One and the spending priorities. The link to this website is http://www.flsenate.gov/media/topics/wlc . Open the link and take advantage of this opportunity to make your voice heard! If you listen to the audio, you will already hear the rumblings about septic systems and the objections of those who mistakenly thought this amendment was all about buying conservation land.
“Good intentions without proper administration can undermine even the most noble of goals.” E.J. Dionne
“Dirty water inundates Seminole neighborhood, wastewater plant blamed.”
Excerpts from an article by Jeff Allen, Seminole County Reporter, Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Residents in a Seminole County neighborhood near Lake Brantley have developed a daily ritual that includes digging trenches and shoveling what they believe is sewage off their front sidewalks and driveways.
Residents along Azalea Drive said there’s been a nonstop flow of wastewater on their properties, and they believe it’s coming from a wastewater treatment plant right behind their homes.
“We can’t let our kids play outside, it’s flooding our streets, we can’t mow our grass,” said resident Cristine Faiello.
Residents said the water began to really build up after last weeks’ heavy rain. But they say they’ve never had problems like this.
“Even through the hurricanes the water will dry up after a couple of days, even after a lot of rain, but this is something we’ve never seen. A week later and we’re still draining water out of our yards,” said longtime resident Jesse Hanson.
We asked the state Department of Environmental Protection about the problem. An official there said their inspectors have visited the area twice and they believe a berm on one of the wastewater facility’s ponds failed, spilling water over into nearby properties.
In fact, those inspectors sent a warning letter to the owners of the treatment facility Wednesday. In the letter, DEP noted they found several possible violations at the Wekiva Hunt Club wastewater treatment facility, including when on Nov. 23 the plant discharged 750,000 gallons of untreated domestic wastewater into nearby Sweetwater Creek.
We also reached out to Sanlando Utilities Corporation, which operates the wastewater treatment plant. A spokesman there said the homeowners’ problems are due to the recent rains in the area that caused the plant’s pond water levels to rise, and that any runoff from the treatment plant is treated water and not contaminated.
DEP asked the owners and operators of the wastewater treatment facility to contact them immediately so that they can meet with them about how to fix the issues soon.
Editor’s note: Our sources indicate authorities were contacted more than a year ago that the retention pond used by the treatment plant was over capacity. Nothing was done. Note above that on November 23, 2014, Sweetwater Creek received 750,000 gallons of untreated sewage – and that creek flows into the Wekiva River! Add to that the sewer line that broke last year in Altamonte Springs year dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the Little Wekiva River, also running into the Wekiva River, and the obsession with septic systems seems a little overblown. Perhaps the ecology of the Wekiva River will be well served if St. Johns Water Management District put their money into upgrading a sewer treatment plant they permit for operation instead of focusing on converting functioning septic systems to sewers.
Legislative Delegation meetings are open to the public and are your opportunity to address your locally elected Senators and Representatives with your concerns and priorities. Prepared statements can usually be submitted in advance of these meetings and you can personally present your statements to them. Water policy is a priority for this legislature and it always includes discussions of septic systems!!
This is a list of North Florida meetings. Outside of this list , you can find information on the web about legislative delegation meetings taking place in other counties, or call your senator’s or representative’s office. Phone numbers for them are available on this website under the tab “contact your representative.”
January 13, 2015: Washington County Legislative Delegation Meeting, 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Board of County Commissioners’ Chamber Annex Boardroom, 1331 South Boulevard, Chipley
Holmes County Legislative Delegation Meeting, 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Holmes County Commissioners Boardroom, 107 E. Virginia Avenue, Bonifay
Walton County Legislative Delegation Meeting, 5:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m., Walton County Commissioners’ Chamber Boardroom, 571 US Highway 90 West, DeFuniak Springs
January 15, 2015: Bay County Legislative Delegation Meeting, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Board of County Commissioners’ Boardroom, Bay County Government Building, 84a0 W. 11th Street, Panama City
January 22, 2015: Jackson County Legislative Delegation Meeting, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Jackson County School Board’s boardroom, 2902 Jefferson St., Marianna
January 26,2015: Okaloosa County Legislative Delegation Meeting, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, 10 Hollywood Blvd. SE, Fort Walton Beach
A MESSAGE FROM COALITION FOR PROPERTY RIGHTS
As we enter 2015, CPR has its eyes set on several priorities. Before sharing them, thank you for your support for property rights and CPR’s advocacy be it financial or advocacy. Both are critical so that we may continue to speak powerfully on behalf of property rights. Your emails and phone calls made a big difference in past legislative session. And, it is your financial support which has enabled CPR to provide alternatives to public policies which erode the rights and freedoms our Founding Fathers intended for property.
As we plan for 2015, we need you and your support more than ever. Legislators begin to meet in January. So, right now, we need your financial support which will allow our voices to be heard in Tallahassee when they meet. To represent you and be heard, we must be there.
Will you please help? Your tax deductible donation or $50, $100, $250 or more will help. Please join us by making a contribution through our Pay Pal account: http://proprights.com/join Alternatively, you may mail a donation to CPR, 2878 South Osceola Avenue, Orlando, FL 32806
Your contribution will help make it possible to pursue several critical 2015 priorities including:
· Monitoring, influencing, and keeping “in the sunshine” the use of Amendment One funds. In the near future, CPR will make known to our membership, the members of the Florida Cabinet, and legislators our recommendations for that “pot of gold.”
· Providing legislators with factual, scientific information upon which to base public policy decisions regarding water quantity and quality.
· Providing legislators with analyses of soon-to-be-filed pro-property rights bills to be considered in the 2015 Legislative Session
· Continuing to research, write, speak, and advocate for preserving private property rights in general and protecting them from needless and burdensome regulations and rules.
Please join us today with your financial investment in Florida’s future.
Then, plan to monitor our 2015 newsletters for information as to how you can play a role in advocating on behalf of private property rights.
Dan Peterson, Executive Director