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Verdict over Florida springs health is blow for environmentalists

A major legal fight waged by environmentalists seeking to bolster regulations protecting Florida’s springs from pollution has resulted in a ruling favoring state authorities.

Filed by a coalition of advocates for some of the state’s best-known springs — including Silver Springs, Blue Spring and Wekiwa Springs — the challenge played out within the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, which hosts court-like proceedings for people who challenge state actions.

At issue were state pollution-prevention rules for springs issued in 2018 and called Basin Management Action Plans. Coalition members deemed the action plans as so weak that even if they succeeded as intended, springs would continue to deteriorate, turning black with harmful algae and losing ecosystem richness.

The judge ruled that the state’s “only requirement was to fill in the blanks, regardless of whether or not what they wrote was credible or backed by science,” said Ryan Smart, executive director of the Florida Springs Council., which coordinated efforts of groups from five springs systems.