SB 624 - Fair Associations.  This bill prohibits counties from levying a tax, special assessment, or fee for the planning, construction, operation, use, or maintenance of stormwater facilities against land owned by a fair association.  The bill also prohibits counties from imposing an impact or mobility fee on a fair association, and adds a retroactive application in that if such a fee has been imposed since 2009, those funds must be refunded by October 2014.  

This bill was heard this week in the Senate Agriculture Committee where it passed notwithstanding opposition from the Association of Counties and League of Cities.  The bill will now move on to Community Affairs, its second of four committees of reference.   As of today, there is no companion bill in the House.   

SB 536 – Reclaimed Water.  This bill requires the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct a study in cooperation with the water management districts on the expansion of the beneficial use of reclaimed water and to submit a report on its findings.  The study must:  identify factors that prohibit or complicate the expansion of reclaimed water use; identify areas in the state where traditional water supply sources are limited and ; reclaimed water is necessary; recommend permit incentives;  and determine the feasibility, benefit, and costs of the infrastructure needed for expansion. 

This bill was heard this week in the Senate Agriculture Committee where it passed unanimously.  The bill will now move on to Environmental Preservation and Conservation, its second and final committee.  The House companion (HB 601 – Ray) has yet to be heard. 

Springs Protection – Workshop.

This week, the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee held a workshop on a DRAFT springs protection bill.   The principal drafters of the bill include Senators Simmons, Dean, Simpson, Hays and Montford.   

This bill would define “Outstanding Florida Springs” (all first magnitude springs as well as DeLeon, Peacock, Rock, Wekiwa and Gemini Springs) and require protective actions to be taken in delineated springs protection zones including the establishment of MFLs.   The bill would require the DEP to develop BMAPs for each of the Outstanding Florida Springs, identifying load allocations for fertilizer, animal waste, septic tanks, wastewater treatment facilities, and stormwater. 

Further, each local government located within a springs protection zone must meet the minimum requirements of the Model Fertilizer Ordinance, including a requirement of 50% slow release nitrogen.  In BMAP areas: Septic tanks must be connected to central sewer systems “where available” or otherwise upgraded to meet 3 mg/l nitrogen limit at the property boundary by 2019 (at no cost to property owners); WWTPs must meet 3 mg/L nitrogen standard by 2019; and all agriculture producers must implement BMPs within 2 years.

Local governments, water management districts, utilities and agricultural producers must submit project proposals to DEP’s Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) for funding up to 75%, with the exception of fiscally constrained counties and septic tank upgrades and connections, which are eligible for 100% funding.  Funds would be allocated from Documentary Stamp revenues, and placed into the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust fund.

The ARC will develop rules for evaluation and ranking projects, and for pilot projects designed to test nutrient reduction technologies.  A minimum of two pilot projects must be approved each cycle.  Minimum evaluation criteria is enumerated in the legislation (including MFL compliance, levels of impairment, presence of BMAPs, prioritization in regional water supply plans, matching funds, etc.). 

Several concerns were raised in the workshop by various stakeholders including representatives from business groups, homebuilders, environmental groups, private property rights advocates, septic tank contractors and local government. 

Among those testifying on the bill language were Commissioner Stan McClain (Marion County) and Commissioner Ron Williams (Columbia County).   We very much appreciate their attendance and contribution to this very important issue.