TALLAHASSEE -- For more than a decade, hundreds of miles of rivers and streams across Florida have lacked clear protections under the nation’s Clean Water Act. From Tampa Bay and Lake Okeechobee, to the Everglades and our countless streams and wetlands, Florida’s waters are like no others in the world. Providing homes for manatees and hundreds of types of birds and fish, they draw visitors from across the globe. But the news lately is full of reports about the sorry state of too many of these waters.
Record numbers of endangered manatees died last year, a tragedy due at least in part to increased pollution. Lake Okeechobee, bursting at its seams due to heavy rainfall, is becoming a giant toxic lagoon that threatens Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades. In fact, of all of the waters that have been tested in the state, only 20 percent are considered suitable for their designated use of fishing, swimming or drinking.
Loopholes worsen the problem. More than a decade ago, a pair of Bush-era Supreme Court decisions opened major loopholes in the nation’s bedrock clean water law, calling into question whether smaller, sometimes intermittent, streams and headwaters across Florida deserve protections. In a move to better protect all of Florida’s waterways, from its iconic waters to the rivers and streams in Floridians’ backyards, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has acted again this fall to fix these dangerous loopholes.
This fall, the EPA issued a report linking the health of smaller rivers and streams to the waters they feed and announced it is moving forward with a new rule to clarify protections for all of our waterways. Environment Florida applauded the move, and our staff got to work enlisting scientists, farmers and ordinary citizens to speak up in favor of protecting all of the state’s waters. Environment Florida will continue to work to ensure that we can fish, boat, swim, birdwatch, and simply enjoy our treasured waters without worrying about pollution.
This article appears courtesy of Environment Florida
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