Environmental Issues in 1960s

S the District stepped into its second decade, the hints of change that began in the late 1960s moved to the forefront.

One of the District’s largest flood control systems, the Tampa Bypass Canal and its flood control structures, became fully operational in the 1970s.

The flood protection mission that sparked the District’s birth continued on schedule. By 1970, major flood protection projects were complete, or nearly so in Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties. The Tampa Bypass Canal, by far the District’s largest flood control project, was well under way. In 1971, aerial mapping and floodplain delineation programs began in earnest.

But dry years plagued the region, following on the heels of 1960’s Hurricane Donna, returning in the mid-1960s and again in 1970. Florida’s population grew from 4.9 million in 1960 to 6.8 million by 1970. New residents and more industry were increasing demands on the state’s water supply.

As damage to the natural environment became more and more evident, state leaders took action. Four major pieces of legislation were enacted by the 1972 Legislature: the Water Resources Act, the Environmental Land and Water Management Act, the Comprehensive Planning Act and the Land Conservation Act. These laws are based on the philosophy that land use, growth policy and water management cannot be separated, a theme that continues to this day.

Water Resources Act

Until 1972, only two water management districts existed: the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District, the predecessor to the South Florida Water Management District. The Water Resources Act established six water management districts, encompassing the entire state, and created policymaking boards for each district. The act also authorized district regulation of well construction, management and storage of surface waters, and consumptive use of waters of the state. The Legislature provided a funding mechanism for the new districts as well. Those six districts became the current five in 1975 when two were combined to form the South Florida Water Management District. A constitutional amendment, passed by statewide referendum in 1976, granted ad valorem taxing power to the water management districts.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District was already involved in water use regulation and water supply planning, but the act formalized water management district roles in public law from strictly flood control to a more broad-based policy of resource management and service to the public.

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