TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Joined by a busload of supporters from Southwest Florida, around 200 activists converged on the steps of the capitol in Tallahasse. The group is pushing for lawmakers and Governor Rick Scott to sign the "Floridian's Clean Water Declaration."
"It is absolutely unacceptable to have thousands of fish, hundreds of seabirds, hundreds of dolphins and hundreds of manatees dying from water pollution," said David Guest, an environmental lawyer attending the rally. "This is a government problem."
"Water is our most precious resource," John Scott told WINK News before boarding a bus from Fort Myers to Tallahassee on Tuesday morning. "We have to do something about it soon or it's going to be too late," he said.
Organizers say their campaign outlines what they call every citizen's right to clean drinking water, fishing water, and springs.
Of particular concern to those in Southwest Florida are the fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee, which are often filled with nutrients and runoff pollutants that can discolor the water along the coastline. Businesses complained of lost tourism dollars over the summer as a result of the runoff.
Advocates met with members of Gov. Scott's administration Tuesday afternoon. They are urging him to sign the declaration and promise greater attention to the issue.
Jennifer Hecker of the Southwest Florida Conservancy was in the meeting.
"Certainly, we weren't expecting it to happen at this meeting... but we'll be following up in a week or so," Hecker said. "If he hasn't signed it by then, I think we'd be very disappointed."
Despite support among many lawmakers, officials say it's unlikely water quality issues will be a focus for the 2014 legislature. Change isn't expected until future House Speaker Steve Crisafulli takes over in 2015.
However, Gov. Scott has already asked for $55 million to boost Florida's springs. A senate committee will hear more on the issue later this week.