| Committees Meet on Florida Forever and Water Rules
| The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government (Chair, Albritton, R-Bartow) met on October 13, 2021. The committee heard presentations from DEP Secretary Hamilton. He provided a detailed overview of the Florida Forever Acquisition process, which requires that land acquisition efforts be based on a comprehensive science-based assessment. Top-ranked projects that meet multiple Florida Forever goals and criteria are given greater consideration for priority ranking. These considerations for ranking include: multiple ecosystem benefits, connectivity, public recreation, and historical resources. Secretary Hamilton reiterated that assurance of a steady stream of annual funding helps the agency with strategic planning and efficient follow through on acquisitions.
On October 14, 2021, the House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Buchanan (R-North Port) heard presentations from DEP on the implementation of the Clean Waterways Act as well as on the Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal System Permitting program.
The Clean Waterways Act requires DEP to advance rules for the use of reclaimed water; develop a program for maintenance of wastewater utility infrastructure; update biosolids permitting rules; update stormwater rules to incorporate the most current science; develop more protective rules for septic tank permitting; as well as fast-track approval for the use of new septic systems. The Act also required the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to update their commodity Best Management Practice (BMP) manuals, report on producer fertilizer use, and inspect each producer for compliance with BMP requirements.
Of note, DEP reported that FDACS referred a list of 2,772 parcels for non-compliance with the DEP program. DEP has successfully brought more than 62% of the parcels into compliance or into the process of compliance through education and outreach.
The Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems (OSTDS) permitting program as required by the Clean Waterways Act was transferred to DEP and these systems will now be permitted as sources of nutrients that could affect our waterways. There are over 2.4 million septic systems in Florida that provide wastewater treatment to about one third of Floridians. While guidance for permitting and the leadership of this program is now within DEP, county health departments will continue as before with permitting and inspection at the local level.
Chris Farrell, our Northeast Florida Policy Associate, participates on the OSTDS TAC, which is charged with developing a process for certifying new OSTDS technologies and also for determining environmentally protective rules for OSTDS permitting.
If any of these presentations sound interesting to you, you can often find recordings of House and Senate committee meetings on The Florida Channel online. Grab your popcorn and enjoy some democracy from the comfort of your couch!