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Politics

Florida House Creates Select Committee on Water Policy

December 6, 2010 - 6:00pm

The Florida House will tackle one of the chief problems impacting the Sunshine State with the creation Tuesday of a select committee to handle the often contentious issue of water management.

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, announced formation of the Select Committee on Water Policy.

The use and management of our natural resources presents one of the most pressing challenges for the long-term health of our state, noted Cannon in a memo. In recent years, we have seen the development of a wide range of issueswith respect to water policy within Florida and changes to federal policy that may significantly impact Floridas ability to manage its own resources.

Floridas water-resource policies are incorporated into the Florida Water Resources Act of 1972.The Florida Water Resources Act was developed at a time when the state relied primarily on inexpensive groundwater as the primary source for its water supply needs, continued Cannon. It is appropriate that the Legislature carefully examine these basic policies that were established almost 40 years ago.We must thoughtfully address the profoundly important issue of Florida's water resources before our problems develop into a crisis.

Cannon went on to note that the Select Committee on Water Policy will review current procedures and make recommendations on changes that Florida needs to make. He added that he wants the committee to issue an initial report before the opening of the legislative session in March and expects a final report before the start of the 2012 session.

Cannon named Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, to head up the committee with Rep. Brad Drake, R-DeFuniak Springs, to serve as vice chairman.

Williams, who served as chairwoman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Committee, is no stranger to water issues. Williams, who represents parts of Collier and Lee counties, had served as chairwoman of the Lower West Coast Water Supply Plan Advisory Committee and as chairwoman of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District.

Throughout the length of her service in the Florida House, Representative Williams has been a leading voice on water-policy issues, and she has spent the last four years as the chair of committees dealing with natural-resource issues, noted Cannon.I have great confidence in Representative Williams ability to manage this important issue and to develop a consensus solution that will benefit Florida for years to come.

Drake comes from the Panhandle, representing all of Holmes and Washington counties and parts of Jackson, Okaloosa, Wakulla and Walton counties. First elected to the House in 2008, Drake served on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Committee in his first term.

It is very important that in developing a comprehensive approach to water policy, we provide an equal voice to all the regions and all the constituencies within Florida, insisted Cannon.Representative Drake has demonstrated a keen interest in water issues and will provide an important perspective on these issues.

Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon of Florida, told Sunshine State News that he is pleased with Cannon creating the committee.

The speaker is correct that Floridas water regulations are in serious need of examination, he said, noting the problems with supply and water quality. He added that the state needs to respond to new federal standards.

Draper praised the selection of Williams, noting her long experience on the issues.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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