Will Weatherford’s term serving the Florida House of Representatives as the presiding officer is coming to a close. He is at a fork in the road. He has had an outstanding career. What will be his legacy?
Weatherford has the rare opportunity to make a decision that will completely change Florida’s future by supporting the Springs and Aquifer Protection Act. This would as much as guarantee passage of the bill, and procedures to clean up Florida’s aquifer, springs and waterways would begin.
We soon would have much less pollution, algae, dying aquatic animals and yucky water. Instead, we would have cleaner water for drinking, recreational purposes and for the aquatic animals. Once again, we would have healthy grasses for aquatic habitats because the toxic algae would not be blocking the sunlight to the grasses.
Up to this point, Weatherford has chosen another path — to step aside and dodge this opportunity to make such a difference for Florida and leave this decision to the next speaker of the House. Has he stopped to consider the high cost of postponement of protecting our springs and aquifer? What would be the load of nitrate-nitrogen from our springs in just one year?
I asked this question to Bob Knight, an environmental scientist with more than 35 years of professional experience in Florida. He is the founder of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute and an adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences at the University of Florida, where he teaches a graduate-level course on the ecology of springs.
Knight’s answer: “I can give you a rough estimate of the current nitrate load coming out of Florida’s springs. The estimated average spring flow was recently estimated as 7,153 million gallons per day for the decade from 2001-2010. The average nitrate-nitrogen concentration in the springs being monitored by DEP was 1.04 milligrams per liter for the decade from 2001-2010. Using some simple conversions, this equates to an estimated annual nitrate-nitrogen load from Florida springs for this most recent decade of 22,657,254 pounds per year (11,329 tons).”
Let’s do the math. What would be the cost of the postponement of adopting the Springs and Aquifer Protection Act for just one year? With 22,657,254 pounds of nitrogen loaded annually and, say, a cost of $100 per pound to treat the nitrogen, we would have added an additional burden to the taxpayers of $2,265,725,400. Is it worth that amount of money to postpone this decision to allow Rep. Steve Crisafulli, the speaker designate, to carry the banner for springs protection for the House?
Take the high road of protecting Florida’s springs and aquifers and guaranteeing Florida’s healthy future. We have a bipartisan springs protection bill that’s being heard in the Senate committees. A companion bill, HB 1313, has been filed in the House. Thousands of Floridians have signed petitions and requested support for our springs. Weatherford should let his legacy be, “Yes, let’s protect our springs and aquifers now, in 2014.”
The writer is the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs’ water and wetland chairman.