Robert Knight: Springs spending spree doesn’t fix problem
In August, Gov. Rick Scott lauded his list of 40 springs restoration projects for 2017-18. The Legislature earmarked $50 million in Legacy Florida funding for these efforts. Combined with almost $16 million contributed from the budgets of the water management districts and a promised $29 million from local governments, this year’s total of $94 million could really have a beneficial impact on our “land of a thousand springs.” The bad news is that although state and local governments have already funded $300 million for springs restoration since 2013, the ecological health of Florida’s springs is continuing to decline.
In the finest tradition of throwing money at a problem, Florida’s government is on a spending spree to provide the appearance of environmental concern. The selection of 112 “springs restoration projects” over the past four years has been conducted without transparency and with minimal prioritization based on costs versus benefits.
The Florida Springs Institute has repeatedly requested, without success, an opportunity to assist the Department of Environmental Protection in assessing and ranking springs restoration projects. Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist’s administrations relied on the Florida Springs Task Force, a group of 28 governmental and non-governmental experts, to prioritize and allocate about $2.5 million for springs research and protection each year for 10 years. One would expect our current fiscally concerned governor to be even more careful with allocating and spending far more public money.