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Wakulla Springs in lawmakers’ hands

Although located in Wakulla County, Wakulla Springs State Park’s renown as home to one of the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs, its historic lodge, glass-bottom boat tours, abundant wildlife and proximity to Jefferson and Madison counties makes it both a natural attraction and a regional asset.

Indeed, the first magnitude spring, which is the source of the Wakulla River, that offers a window into the Floridian Aquifer and has attracted visitors from time immemorial. Or at least it has since the early Paleo-Indians to Spanish explorers Panfilo de Narvaez and Ponce de Leon to modern-day visitors and eco-tourists.

The site also has been the setting for several movies, including Night Moves, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Tarzan’s New York Adventure.

The springs, however, are in trouble; their once crystal clear water that gave the site much of its acclaim and appeal has turned murky, a consequence of nitrates from storm water and wastewater draining into them and causing the proliferation of algae and invasive plants.

Now there is hope for Wakulla Springs. Legislation is winding its way through the legislative process. If approved, it would earmark millions of dollars for springs’ restoration as part of a larger Everglades restoration plan, some of which money could go to the Wakulla site.

House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1168 both relate to the implementation of the Water and Land Conservation constitutional amendment. The bills would, among other things, require that a minimum of 7.6 percent, or $75 million, whichever is less, be appropriated annually for spring restoration from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

As of Wednesday, March 9, both bills had moved favorably through their respective appropriation committees and have been placed on the calendar, preparatory to consideration by the full assemblies.

If the two measures are approved, Wakulla Springs could possibly get some of the necessary funding it needs to address the problems. One proposal reportedly being considered is to reduce the nitrates that float into the springs from the thousands of septic tanks uplands of the sites in Leon and Wakulla counties. The idea is to retrofit the septic tanks or connect the thousands of homes using septic tanks to a centralized sewer system, both costly propositions.

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