Our Rivers And Springs Are Getting Sicker, Former Fla. Governor Says It's Because Of 'Bad Policies'

Jan 31, 2013

The Loxahatchee River in Palm Beach County is a popular spot for outdoor recreation.
Credit Tricia Woolfenden

 A scathing guest column that appeared Wednesday in the Orlando Sentinel says "severe budget cuts are seriously compromising the ability of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection and Legislature and water management districts to adequately protect our state's natural resources."

The opinion piece was penned by former U.S. senator and Florida governor Bob Graham, and Nathaniel Reed. Both men were speaking on behalf of the Florida Conservation Coalition; Graham as founder and chairman of the group, and Reed as vice chairman.

The piece was spurred by recent investigative work by Orlando Sentinel's environmental reporter Kevin Spear, who has been looking at the health of Florida's rivers and springs. An article from January 16, titled "Florida Rivers Getting Sicker, Sentinel Investigation Finds," reports:

Of the 22 rivers studied, from Miami to Pensacola, nearly half are in decline because of pollution from lawns, street runoff, wastewater and agriculture, and because of shrinking flows caused by drought and rising demand for water by cities and industries. Other rivers in the group, while either stable or improving, are profoundly impaired.

Spear reports that while the state is facing concerns over water shortages and pollution, the state government is cutting the "size and strength" of the agencies charged with environmental protection. Another story by Spear from late last year examines another aspect of the Florida river conundrum: The rivers' "low profile" in both a physical and perhaps metaphorical sense.  

Most recently, the paper covered an upcoming rally for Wekiva River, a 16-or-so-mile spring-fed river in central Florida. The Speak Up Wekiva rally, planned for February 16, is hosted by Florida Conservation Coalition and its partners, including Friends of the Wekiva River, League of Women Voters of Florida, and St. Johns Riverkeeper.