S-STATE OF FLORIDA
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION
TWIN TOWERS OFFICE BUILDING GOVERNOR
2600 BLAIR STONE ROAD
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32301 VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL
"SAVE OUR RIVERS" PROGRAM EXPLAINED
"Acquiring wetlands, which cleanse waters of pollutants, will
be our legacy to the future of Florida."--Gov. Bob Graham.
Many Floridians feel the state's tremendous growth threatens
our water resources--even to the point of crisis. More than three
million new residents are expected before the turn of the century.
And there is a growing consensus among environmental experts
that even the state's excellent pollution control and water resources
laws--considered some of the nation's best--cannot assure a continued
supply of clean water for drinking, recreation and industry. These
experts say that only acquisition of environmentally-critical lands
adjacent to streams and drinking water supplies can prevent contami-
nation of these supplies, and protect the natural recharge areas
which are so vital to their survival.
Purchase of these lands will be expensive and beyond the capability
of any existing state land acquisition programs. To meet this need,
Gov. Bob Graham and the Department of Environmental Regulation are
recommending to the Legislature a surcharge on Florida's documentary
The funds will be used to "Save Our Rivers."
Following, in question and answer format, is an explanation of
Q. What is the documentary stamp tax?
A. A tax, paid at the time of the transaction, by persons who
buy property in Florida.
Q. How much is this tax now?
A. 40 cents per hundred dollars--thus, the documentary stamp
tax on purchase of a $50,000 home now is $200.
Q. How much would the "Save Our Rivers" surcharge add to this?
A. The proposed surcharge is five cents per hundred dollars.
Using the $50,000 home example, it would add $25 to the cost.
Q. How much would this raise to "Save Our Rivers?"
A. Some $320 million over the ten-year life of the surcharge.
Q. The surcharge would last ten years?
A. It would repeal itself in 1991.
Q. Why use the documentary stamp tax--not some other tax?
A. It is not an across-the-board tax which hits everyone.
It only affects those who buy property. For that reason, it is most
closely related to the state's growth. Growth is considered to be
the principal threat to our water resources.
Q. To which areas of the state would the tax apply?
A. The whole state, but a larger share of the tax would be
collected in the fastest-growing areas--which are also the areas
whose waters are threatened most. A larger share of the money would
also be spent in these areas to acquire lands.
Q. Who would spend the money?
A. Proceeds of the surcharge would be allocated to the state's
water management districts--five regional water management agencies
which cover the whole state. After receipt of monies from a trust
fund administered by the Department of Environmental Regulation,
the water management districts would be required to match each four
dollars from the surcharge with a dollar from local sources for
purchase of lands in their areas. Donated lands would also be considered
part of the local share.
Q. Why would the water management districts implement the
A. They already have local ad valorem taxing authority, to help
raise the required matching funds; in addition, they have authority
to purchase lands for public purposes through "eminent domain" proceed-
ings. The districts also have ongoing projects to protect water
resources in their areas, and this would allow them to blend the
"Save Our Rivers" program with existing programs for maximum efficiency
and protection of water resources.
Q. How would the funds be apportioned among the districts?
A. The South Florida Water Management District--which includes
all of Southeast Florida's "Gold Coast" counties--would get 25% of
the money, some $80 million over the ten-year period. Another quarter
of the money would go to the Southwest Florida Water Management District--
home of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Sarasota and the phosphate
industry. A quarter of the proceeds also would go to the St. Johns
River Water Management District--Jacksonville, Gainesville, the growing
upper east coast area; Ten percent respectively will go to the
Suwannee and Northwest Florida Water Management Districts. The final
5% will be held to fill the "hot spots" around the state,
Q. Are there other existing state land purchase programs?
A. Yes, perhaps the best known is the Conservation and Recreational
Lands (CARL) Program, whose funds are used to purchase environmentally
endangered lands, parklands and recreational lands. However, the water
resources lands in the "Save Our Rivers" program do not fit into the
CARL criteria, and the CARL program has its limits. It simply does
not provide enough money for purchase of critical water resources lands.
Its funds are committed. There is a backlog of properties on the
priority list for the program. CARL lands are important to preserve
important Florida habitat which are homes to endangered and threatened
Q. What types of lands would be purchased under the "Save Our
A. Swamp, floodplain and other rural lands so important to
protecting water resources. These lands filter runoff, hold back
flood waters and allow our aquifer systems to recharge themselves,
According to Gov. Graham, "Nature is the best purifier. We must
protect the wetlands, recharge areas and soils, By simply protecting
the system that nature gave us, we can avoid the costs and disruption
of structural management solutions such as digging ditches and building
dams." The money can only be used to pruchase lands.
Q. Specific examples?
A. Some 88,000 acres of Everglades lands, essential to assuring
preservation of the Everglades' water storage ability. The 7700-acre
Starkey Tract in Pasco County. Land bordering the Hillsborough River,
Cypress Creek land and portions of Central Florida's Green Swamp.
Also 100,000 acres of marshland along the upper St. Johns River south
of Sanford, to go with some 30,000 acres already purchased and protect
this important river from further degradation.
Q. How will the lands be managed?
A. Lands will be maintained in this natural state in order to
protect the water resource values. However, they will be open to
public recreation such as hunting, fishing and hiking.
Q. Is it worth it?
A. Protecting the lands which surround and protect the source
of our water is far and away the most economical approach--much better
than "quick-fix" technological solutions we have used in the past.
As the Governor indicated, nature is the best purifier--also the
Q. Is this an anti-growth proposal?
A. Florida is going to grow. This program attempts to preserve
clean waters--among the chief reasons most of us live here. Gov. Graham:
"Economic growth is not merely an obstinate challenger to environmental
"It can be--in fact must be--a partner in environmental improve-
ment." In addition, economic growth will not be possible without an
adequate supply of good water.