(TALLAHASSEE/NSF/January 26, 2022) — A Senate panel Wednesday approved a plan that would provide $20 million a year to help protect the headwaters of waterways in Central Florida, despite continued concerns from environmental groups about the source of the money. The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee approved the bill (SB 1400), sponsored by Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills. The bill would help carry out a 2017 law known as the Heartland Headwaters Protection and Sustainability Act, which was designed to protect the headwaters of the Alafia, Hillsborough, Kissimmee, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee Rivers in the Green Swamp and Polk County. Money would come from the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
Voters in 2014 approved a constitutional amendment to direct documentary-stamp taxes, which are collected on real-estate transactions, to go into the trust fund for land and water conservation. Groups such as the Sierra Club and Florida Conservation Voters contend that the Senate bill could lead to money being spent for other purposes, such as wastewater-related projects. But Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, said the measure would help meet needs. “This deals with water quality, and everybody here knows we need to improve the water quality,” Stewart said.
The bill needs approval from the Appropriations Committee before it could go to the full Senate.
The News Service of Florida