By John Moran
The Santa Fe River Bill of Rights (SAFEBOR) campaign to enact new legal safeguards for the beloved river bordering Alachua County is now in full swing.
If the ballot initiative is approved by Alachua County voters in the 2020 general election, the county’s home rule charter will be amended to recognize the right of the Santa Fe River to naturally exist and flourish as an ecosystem, and the river’s right to be free of activities or practices that infringe upon those rights.
Existing regulatory laws have failed to protect Florida waters, organizers say, and falling aquifers and slime-filled rivers and springs with diminished flows increasingly are the focus of news stories and citizen concern. Since the Santa Fe River springs are the top layer of groundwater that provides our drinking water, another serious concern is the health of that drinking water.
In order to secure a spot on the November 2020 ballot, campaign organizers and volunteers are poised to gather more than 18,000 petition signatures from registered Alachua County voters in the next six months. With voter approval, Alachua County will be legally positioned to elevate the rights of communities and nature above the claimed “rights” of corporations to harm public waters within the Santa Fe rivershed in Alachua County.
“The effort to grant legal rights to natural systems is part of a visionary new movement being adopted within the United States and internationally because people recognize that we need to fundamentally change the ways we are living with Mother Nature,” says SAFEBOR steering committee chair David Moritz. Other steering committee members are nature photographer John Moran; writer Lu Merritt, who has worked with several springs defender groups in North Florida; and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, a founding member of Our Santa Fe River.
The voters of Toledo, Ohio made headlines earlier this year when they overwhelmingly passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights in the wake of a 2014 emergency shutdown of their city’s municipal water supply, rendered unsafe to drink for three days by toxic algae and impacting more than half a million residents.
Learn more, download the petition, and check out volunteer and donor opportunities at SAFEBOR.org, and find us on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s protect our drinking water and the river we love.