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Sen. Dean says water a House priority next year

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By PAT FAHERTY

Special to the Citizen

State Sen. Charles Dean had an optimistic message on Monday for the Agricultural Alliance of Citrus County regarding water policy.

Following an update on the Basin Management Action Plans (BMAP) for King’s Bay and its associated springs and Weeki Wachee Springs, Dean noted the importance of the process, a carryover from legislation proposed in the state Senate last session.

He said, though the leaders of the state House did not choose to get involved with water programs, “We have some of the best allocations and appropriations for water management this year that we’ve ever had.”

Dean said he has been assured by the incoming House speaker that water is a priority for him next year.

Dean cited the reclaimed water program at Crystal River and one in south Marion County as the types of programs needed, based on science and engineering.

“No one entity is our problem,” Dean said. “If we don’t take care now and start paying attention, it will haunt future generations.”

He also mentioned the problems of reduced spring flow, runoff, saltwater intrusion and the unintended consequences of spreading fertilizer. He praised the best management practices of agriculture statewide, but told alliance members they should make a plan rather than have someone come and plan for them.

“We need a culture change,” said alliance president Dale McClellan. “There are legacy nutrients no matter what we do today. It will take time to clean it up.”

On the BMAP process, alliance member Jimmy Brooks said the Department of Environmental Protection has offered to work with all the stakeholders to identify the major sources of nutrients in King’s Bay.

“It is to our benefit to be able to work with them; provide the best available information we have as users,” he said.

McClellan said it is an opportunity to lead by example.

The alliance is also continuing its efforts to bring the annual, five-county Agritunity Conference and Trade Show to Citrus County. The alliance voted to provide up to $1,000 in matching funds to help attract the event.

BJ Jarvis, county Extension Service director, reminded members and the public about the 100th anniversary of the Florida Extension Service open house celebration, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 14, at the historic canning center in Lecanto.

Reporter Pat Faherty can be reached at pfaherty@chronicleonline.com or 352-564-2924.