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Springs Institute director: 2017 was a mixed year for spring health

Op-ed in the Gainesville Sun by Robert Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute:

The past year has been a mixed blessing for Florida’s springs. Mother Nature started the year with an extended drought that nearly depleted the flow in many intermediate-sized springs and promoted an explosion of filamentous algae in many larger ones.

Mother Nature changed her tune in June with the beginning of North Florida’s wettest four months in history, resulting in a welcome excess of rain that partially re-filled the limestone aquifer, accompanied by increased spring flows.

This year Florida’s state agencies also gave our springs a mixed bag of tricks. The Legislature added another $50 million to its Springs Legacy funding, amplified by millions from the state’s water management districts and many local utilities. Some of this money will be spent on springshed land acquisition, helping to prevent future development pressure.

However, the lion’s share is earmarked for questionable projects, upgrading wastewater treatment systems and eliminating a trivial number of septic tanks, while simultaneously permitting more new homes with septic systems. The state’s expenditure of taxpayer dollars intended for springs protection is not likely to move the needle very much toward improved springs health.