Legislators urged to get
tough on protecting springs
'Stop talking and do something!'
By Jennifer Portman • DEMOCRAT Senior WRITER
• February 17, 2010
One by one, the speakers climbed the steps of the
Old Capitol on Tuesday and recounted with wonder
seeing their first Florida spring. The same words
poured out: crystal, clear, liquid light.
"Bubbles stuck to green grass like diamonds,"
recalled former Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid
But those descriptions no longer flow.
Wynns held up a ziplock bag of black gunk for the
"This is what our sand and eel grass looks like
now," she said.
The degradation seen at the one-of-a-kind Florida
attraction has been seen at springs throughout the
state, including nearby Wakulla Springs. About 250
people turned out for the Florida Springs Rally to
demand lawmakers do more to protect the fragile
resource. In the last five years, legislation intended
to stop further harm to the state's more than 700
springs has failed.
"If they don't do something this year, it's going to
get real bad," said Laura Dailay, who traveled from
her home near Fort White on the Ichetucknee River.
She punctuated speakers' remarks with shouts of,
"Stop talking and do something!"
Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, and
other lawmakers pledged their support.
"This is the year. We have to do something," said
Constantine, who sponsored a spring protection bill
that died last year and urged citizens to put
pressure on their representatives.
On a state level, spring advocates say more
stringent land use planning and regulations are
needed in spring watersheds controlling fertilizer
use, septic systems, storm water runoff and
"We have always thought about springs as the
beginning," said Jim Stevenson, head of the Wakulla
Springs Basin Workgroup and coordinator of the
event. "We've learned the spring is the end of the
On the podium was a plastic bottle filled with water
from Wakulla Spring on Tuesday morning and
carried by runners from Maclay School in a 16-mile
relay to event. Stevenson said studies showed some
of the water in the bottle came from deep in the
aquifer and was decades old. Some, he said, came
from a toilet flush at the Capitol 45 just days ago.
"This water carries a message, it tells us who we are
and how we treat the land," he said. "We should have
taken action to protect our springs 20 years ago.
The second-best thing ... is doing something this
The federal government also is currently
considering setting a limit for nutrients in Florida
springs to help improve water quality. Nutrients,
such as nitrates, contribute to the growth of algae
and other invasive plants that can choke a spring. A
hearing on the new rule was held in Tallahassee
earlier Tuesday. Public comment is being taken
through March 29.
At the rally, Emma Christine McCoy, a seventh-
grader in the IB program at Fairview Middle School
and a sixth-generation Floridian, spoke plainly
about her hopes. Her grandmother was a lifeguard
at Wakulla Springs in the 1940s, and Emma has
been going to the spring all her life.
She said: "I would like for (my children) to ride the
glass bottom boat and see the spring as clear as I