An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Seminole County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Florida Gov. DeSantis rolls out environmental proposals

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants lawmakers to double fines for sewage spills into waterways and to lock an environmental-funding pledge into state budgets for at least the next three years.

The proposals are the first of a series the governor said he will make ahead of the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January. Lawmakers returned to Tallahassee on Monday to start holding committee meetings to prepare for the session.

Doubling fines for sewage spills would eliminate what DeSantis described as a “slap me on the wrist” approach to penalties for local governments. Civil penalties are now up to $10,000 a day, DeSantis said during an appearance last week at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center in Naples.

“What we end up seeing happening is, you have some of these municipalities, it’s cheaper for them to pay a fine and spew all this sewage into the waterways, because it’s the cost of doing business,” DeSantis said. “They’d rather do that than invest in the infrastructure they need to make sure the waterways surrounding them are safe and clean.”

DeSantis noted, for example, spills that have occurred into Tampa Bay.

Riverkeeper: 'Alarming' findings in annual St. Johns River report

Environmentalists, including the St. Johns Riverkeeper, are calling the latest report on the St. Johns River alarming.

The report shows an increase in phosphorus, metals and more loss of wetlands.

The Riverkeeper says an increase in phosphorus could fuel blue-green algae breakouts. When the river’s health is in decline, it could have impacts for everyone, including some fishermen like Michael Harvilicz.

Harvilicz, who caught a fish on Monday, says not all of the fish he’s caught look as good.

“It’s sad because it’s an almost cancer-like condition, they’re very gross and wouldn’t think of taking these fish and eating them,” Harvilicz said.

The Vietnam veteran also says he caught a flesh-eating bacteria from the water.

“This is what you have to do if you’re throwing a net in,” Harvilicz says as he puts on rubber gloves. He wishes he could help keep the river healthy. 

Court rules Obama EPA violated law on WOTUS

More than nine months after the last hearing in the case, and nearly nine months to the day of the briefing deadline for that hearing, U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood handed a victory to the state of Georgia and nine other states that sued the federal government over the Obama administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States Rule.

Wood stated that the rule, which was intended to provide better protection of the nation’s water, violated the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, and she remanded it back to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers for further work.

She wrote that while the agencies have authority to interpret the phrase “waters of the United States,” that authority isn’t limitless, and therefore their decisions in doing so do not fall under what’s called Chevron deference, a matter of case law in which — for lack of a better phrase — the tie goes to the agency.