Audubon Florida
The Advocate
In a good week for the Everglades, a damaging amendment that would have retroactively approved a development in a future restoration area was removed, while a bill protecting the Everglades from sprawl unanimously passed the Senate and awaits a vote in the House. Also this week, bills on land acquisition, biosolids, sprawl, and more took steps forward.
A Snowy Egret crouches low over calm water.
Everglades Protection Area Bill Passes Senate with Unanimous Support
SB 192, Everglades Protection Area, by Sen. Avila (R-Miami Springs), passed on the Senate floor unanimously this week.

This bill requires increased state scrutiny of comprehensive plan amendments that would occur within two miles of the Everglades Protection Area. These additional safeguards will protect the Everglades from urban sprawl.

Special thanks to bill sponsor, Sen. Avila, and Senate President Passidomo for championing this effort. The House companion, HB 175, sponsored by Rep. Busatta Cabrera (R-Coral Gables), is waiting to be put on the agenda at its second committee of reference. 
Snowy Egret. Photo: Melissa Groo/Audubon Photography Awards.
Purple Gallinule standing on a branch above the water.
Amendment That Would Threaten Everglades Restoration Withdrawn
An amendment to SB 540, Local Government Comprehensive Plans, introduced by Sen. DiCeglie (R-Indian Rocks Beach), was withdrawn this week in the Rules Committee.

Despite a recent Department of Economic Opportunity decision that Miami-Dade County developers had missed a deadline to build on land outside the Urban Development Boundary, this amendment would have retroactively changed the timeline and paved the way for development in an area that is essential for Everglades restoration in Southeast Florida.

Thanks to Sen. DiCeglie hearing the Everglades conservation community’s concerns, this amendment was withdrawn. Special thanks are due to the Chair of the Rules Committee, Sen. Mayfield (R-Melbourne), for ensuring that Everglades restoration remains viable and protected from development pressure.
Purple Gallinule. Photo: Ed Mattis/Audubon Photography Awards.
A Northern Cardinal drinks from the edge of a small puddle, with water dripping from its bill.
Concerning Sprawl Bill Moves Forward
An amended HB 439, Land Use and Development Regulations, sponsored by Rep. McClain (R-Ocala) passed the Commerce Committee (Chair Rep. Rommel (R-Naples)) this week.

While last week saw improvements to the Senate version, several concerning provisions still remain in the House version, including the harmful redefinition of urban sprawl and the removal of a local government’s ability to deny a development application based on level of service used for planning. This would mean that insufficient infrastructure, such as roads, schools, etc., cannot be the reason a local government denies a development request. It also requires that municipalities comply with special magistrate decisions should a petitioner challenge a denial for a land use application.

The Senate companion, SB 1604, sponsored by Sen. Ingoglia (R-Springhill) saw significant improvements to the bill. More changes are needed to HB 439 to ensure that cities and towns govern their own land-use decisions.

Audubon is working to improve this legislation and many other growth management bills that attempt to limit the ability of cities and counties to protect themselves from sprawl.
Northern Cardinal. Photo: Susan Ellison/Audubon Photography Awards.
Crested Caracara sitting on a log, with grass in the background.
Biosolids Bill Not Improved, Moves Forward
In the Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government (Chair Sen. Brodeur, R-Sanford), SB 0880, Biosolids, by Sen. Brodeur took another step forward in the legislative process and passed favorably through the committee. 


The bill prohibits DEP from authorizing land application site permits for Class B biosolids (sewage sludge) within the watershed or upstream of impaired waterbodies unless the applicant can demonstrate that the nutrients in the biosolids will not increase nutrient loadings in the impaired watershed. The bill also authorizes DEP to provide grants within the wastewater grant program for projects that convert wastewater residuals to biosolids.


Audubon has pointed out that the unintended consequence of this change could be to drive the conversion of more Class B biosolids to Class AA — which has just as many algae bloom-fueling nutrients without any restrictions on or tracking of where they are used.

We were disappointed that anticipated improvements to the bill (that would not just incentivize conversion to Class AA, but would incentivize conversion for other uses, like Waste-to-Energy solutions, as well as creating a tracking program to ensure we know where these materials end up) were not added as an amendment at this committee stop.

The House companion bill is HB 1405, sponsored by Rep. Tuck (R-Lake Placid).
Crested Caracara. Photo: Clyde Dexter/Audubon Photography Awards.
Northern Parula stands on a branch, with green leaves in the background.
HB 7047 Would Change Land Acquisition, But Lacks Senate Companion Bill
HB 7047, State Land Acquisition, by the Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee, was voted favorably through the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee this week. 

The bill includes provisions that are intended to speed up the state’s process for the acquisition of conservation lands and ensures consistent funding for this program. The bill would direct $100 million per year to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the Florida Forever program, and prioritizes acquiring land at risk of development or within the footprint of the proposed 18 million-acre Florida Wildlife Corridor.

This bill does not currently have a Senate companion, though SB 1476 (Sen. Simon (R-Tallahassee)) has a few similar provisions to expedite the process for the acquisition of state lands. 
Northern Parula. Photo: Melanie Palik/Audubon Photography Awards.
An aerial video of Miami.
Sea Level Rise Impact Projection Study Bill
HB 0111, Flooding and Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Studies, by Rep. Hunschofsky (R-Parkland) passed favorably through the Infrastructure Strategies Committee (Chair Rep. Payne (R- Palatka)), as did its Senate companion, SB 1170, sponsored by Sen. Calatayud (R-Miami) through Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government (Chair Sen. Brodeur (R-Sanford)).

The legislation requires a Sea Level Rise Impact Projection study for any publicly funded projects to evaluate the impact of sea level rise on construction. This bill includes projects built on the coast but also inland if they can be impacted by sea level rise and are in an at-risk area.
Miami, FL.
Anhinga with outstretched wings, with water in the background.
Bill to Improve Water Quality Passes through Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee
HB 1379, Environmental Protection, by Rep. Steele (R-Dade City) and Rep. Overdorf (R-Palm City) took another step forward this week and passed favorably through the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee (Chair Rep. Thad Altman (R-Indialantic)).

This bill could bring big improvements to water quality in Florida with provisions that include requirements for wastewater treatment facilities, septic tanks, sanitary sewer services, and basin management action plans. It expands the scope of the wastewater grant program and has provisions targeting water quality improvements for the Indian River Lagoon. The bill also has provisions expediting the process of acquisition of conservation land.

HB 1379 is on the agenda next week at its last committee stop, the Infrastructure and Strategies Committee.  The Senate companion, SB 1632, (Sen. Brodeur (R-Sanford)) had been stalled but is on the agenda next week in the Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government.
Anhinga. Photo: Tom McGrath/Audubon Photography Awards.
water droplets
SB 7002 Tackles Septic Tanks to Improve Water Quality
SB 7002, Ratification of Rules of the Department of Environmental Protection, by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, revises septic tank permitting rules as directed by the Clean Water Act of 2020 and requires legislative ratification.

SB 7002 requires more stringent septic tank permitting requirements in areas with an adopted septic system remediation plan in an effort to protect and improve water quality.  DEP anticipates the cost to the regulated community to be $5.7 million over a five year period, which is well worth the savings down the road when nutrients from leaking septic tanks do not contribute to coastal algal blooms. 

The bill was voted favorably in the Senate Appropriations (Chair Sen. Bronson (R-Gulf Breeze)) and will be referred to the floor.

The House companion, HB 7027, was referred to the House Infrastructure and Strategies Committee.
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