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Water Conservation To Get $4 Million Boost In North, Central Florida

Ryan Benk

Central and North Florida springs are getting an extra $4 million to help supplement ongoing water conservation efforts.

The St. Johns River Water Management District board voted Tuesday to allow the district’s executive director to use the funds the Florida Legislature allocated.

Some environmentalists worry the board signed away its authority to choose which projects get the funds, which could hinder transparency.

Lisa Rinaman with the St. Johns Riverkeeper is all for that extra money, but she’s worried about giving one person so much power.

“We always want to make sure there’s as much transparency as possible on these decisions that are going to be made to potentially help our natural resources and so this will force the public to be a little bit more engaged,” Rinaman said.

Rinaman said granting the executive director sole authority to choose projects hinders the public’s ability to vet them.

But Director of Springs Protection for water management district, Casey Fitzgerald, said proposed projects will have to clear a high bar to receive a piece of the 4 million dollars.

“We’ll have some criteria that will be approved by DEP, ourselves and the other water management districts,” Fitzgerald said. “We will then review the applications relative to that criteria and make a recommendation to our executive director.”

Fitzgerald said the district’s focus will be on helping public utilities and springs communities with limited means.

Still, Rinaman said the $4 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to what could be spent on water conservation in Central and North Florida.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.