ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Florida ranks #1 for boating, according to new data issued today by Environment Florida. More than 37 million people visit Florida waterways like Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River for boating, fishing, kayaking, and more. The “Summer Fun Index” comes as a new rule protecting thousands of waterways across the state takes effect.
“Our rivers and lakes are a big part of what makes Florida the perfect place for summer fun all year-round. There’s nothing quite like boating in Tampa Bay or kayaking down the Hillsborough River to relax on a hot day,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida.
According to the report, boating and fishing are popular activities for visitors to Florida waterways, with Florida ranking 1st for registered boats, and in the top 5 states for registered fishers and summer camps with water activities, out of 28 states surveyed.
“Although it’s no surprise that Florida ranks highly in fishing and boating, our new index highlights the important role clean water plays in Floridian’s lives and why we need to protect it.”
Despite their popularity, until recently nearly 1/3 of Florida’s streams were not guaranteed protection under the nation’s Clean Water Act, thanks to a loophole in the law secured by developers and other polluters nearly a decade ago.
That changed on August 28th, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Rule took effect, restoring protections to 15,000 miles of streams in Florida and millions across the country.
The move followed a decade of campaigning by Environment Florida, and was backed by farmers, small businesses such as Woody’s Watersports, local officials such as Mayor Sam Henderson of Gulfport, and 800,000 public comments -- including over 30,000 from Floridians.
“The water is how I choose to make a living,” said Captain Eric Weather, owner of WeatherEco, an educational boat charting business based out of St. Petersburg. “We take folks from all over out to snorkel, dive, and explore our coastal waters. People just can’t get enough of all that Florida’s waters have to offer, and that’s why it’s so important that we protect these natural resources."
Developers, oil companies, and other polluters, however, have waged a bitter campaign against the Clean Water Rule, and their allies in Congress are pushing to overturn it. Senator Rubio was among members of the U.S. Senate who cosponsored a resolution in September to invalidate the EPA’s new Clean Water Rubio and strip renewed protections from drinking water sources.
“The Clean Water Rule is the biggest step for clean water in a decade,” said Rubiello. “Congress should back this rule so that Floridians can enjoy Tampa Bay, and all our rivers and lakes for generations to come.”