On Sunday we notified you of the recently added amendment to SB 1684 that would allow 15 square miles of the Econlockhatchee floodplain in Eastern Orange County to be drained without wetland permits. The result will be the conversion of the river’s tributaries into drainage canals and extensive ditches that will degrade the rest of the area’s wetlands. Unfortunately, this amendment passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday. But not without significant opposition, thanks to your vocal support for the important Econlockhatchee River.
Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) offered an amendment to the amendment that would grandfather in those who already have an Environmental Resource Permit in the floodplain. While we thank Senator Latvala for his efforts, his amendment only addresses part of our concerns.
Audubon Florida would like to thank the St. Johns River Legislative Caucus, represented in the Senate Appropriations Committee by Senator John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine), Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park), for expressing concern that Senator Latvala’s amendment did not go far enough to protect the Econlockhatchee and St. Johns Rivers. These three members voted NO on the full bill primarily because of this issue.
Before moving on to other issues, there was commitment from Senators that there will continue to be work on this amendment before the bill is brought for a vote on the Senate floor. Stay tuned for more information, but make no mistake, your letters are working.
Special thanks to St. Johns Riverkeeper’s Lisa Rinaman for her good testimony in today’s hearing. Audubon is looking forward to continuing our work with Senators and our conservation partners to fix this bill and protect the outstanding Econlockhatchee River.
Thank you, Advocates!