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Florida Groups Thankful for Clean Water Protections

Dozens of environmental groups say they're thankful protections for Florida streams and wetlands remain in place. Credit: Bandini/morguefile.com
Dozens of environmental groups say they're thankful protections for Florida streams and wetlands remain in place. Credit: Bandini/morguefile.com
December 1, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Clean water plays a vital role in Florida's environment and economy from the Everglades to the Panhandle. Dozens of environmental groups are thankful that one lawmaker took action to protect the state's water and wildlife.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., voted against requiring the Obama administration to revisit its update of the Clean Water Act, which now includes a rule to protect streams and wetlands. The rule supports efforts to restore the Everglades and other cherished waterways, said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

"It's necessary to protect headwaters and watersheds that are critical to our nation's water quality, " Fuller said, "and are often comprised of wetlands, which are great fish and wildlife habitat."

Protections for streams and wetlands were left unclear after some Supreme Court decisions, but the recent rule to clarify them is being called a "federal overreach" by opponents. The Florida Wildlife Federation is one of 57 organizations that sent a letter of thanks to Nelson for his critical vote on the issue.

For Floridians, Fuller said, the Clean Water Act isn't only about a healthy environment. Protecting streams and wetlands makes good financial sense, given the roles that tourism and commercial and recreational fishing play in the state.

"They also provide the basis of our natural resource-based economy," he said, "which in Florida is extremely important, as is oftentimes the case around the United States."

The recreational fishing industry supports 80,000 jobs, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Florida has lost more than half its historic wetlands, recent estimates suggest, and harmful algal blooms from polluted waters exist in many river and stream systems across the state.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL