The Florida Springs Council announced a legal victory last week. In a Facebook post, the council said the Florida First District Court of Appeal had reversed a lower court’s decision in a legal battle that has been ongoing since 2019.
In 2016, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, which required, among other things, that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection create Basin Management Action Plans, or BMAPs.
According to the department’s website, a BMAP is a strategic plan to reduce pollution and restore water quality.
In 2019, the Florida Springs Council and other environmental groups sued the department, saying their plans would not be effective. But after a two year legal battle, a court ruled the department did not break the law. Executive Director of the Florida Springs Council Ryan Smart said they “knew that wasn’t the case.”
“Clearly they hadn’t done what the law required, so we kept at it,” he said.
The environmental groups appealed the decision in 2022, and on Wednesday the appellate court ruled in their favor, saying the department now needs to rewrite the plans.
Smart said this moment was bittersweet.
“Unfortunately, we’ve lost time that we don’t have in cleaning up these springs, because (the department) wants to side with polluters over the environment. They should be ashamed,” he said.
Department Press Secretary Alexandra Kuchta declined WUFT’s request for an interview, but said in an email that the department was “currently reviewing the opinion and evaluating options moving forward.”
The email also said the department has “remained steadfast in (its) efforts to invest in nitrate-reducing capital projects.”
For Smart, despite the win, the fight isn’t over.
“We’re gonna try to stay on them. We’re gonna try to make sure that they do what they’ve been legally required to do for years and create springs cleanup plans that are actually going to work.”