We’re excited to share that the Safe Waterways Act has been added to the Florida Senate’s Special Order Calendar for tomorrow, March 7, 2024!

Background: Persistence in Tallahassee

In 2021, Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani started working with Florida Senator Lori Berman’s office on wording for the Safe Waterways Act. The intent of the proposed law was to broaden the definition of public bathing places monitored for fecal indicator bacteria by the Florida Department of Health, require consistent notification and signage procedures, and establish a statewide database accessible to the public.

The legislation was introduced that Fall, ahead of the 2022 legislative session. Calusa Waterkeeper launched the Right to Know campaign to support it. Our Board President spoke on the issue to the Lee County Legislative Delegation and received no interest. Lacking any Republican co-sponsors the bill was never heard by its first committee in the Florida House.

With the sponsorship help of Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman, the Safe Waterways Act was re-introduced in the 2023 legislative session. It got more attention and passed some house committees with bi-partisan support, but ultimately went nowhere in the Senate. Cassani traveled to Tallahassee to speak in favor in committee hearings. Our Friends at Surfrider Florida and Waterkeepers Florida also spoke in favor and introduced the Safe to Swim campaign. A large set of environmental groups helped support and promote the bills, but neither companion bill got the necessary momentum.

Fast forward to 2024 and this session has been a different animal. The Safe Waterways Act received more bi-partisan co-sponsors, was guided through committees and is now poised for a special order vote by the full Senate. The language in this third version of the Safe Waterways Act is much different and less ambitious than the prior two attempts, and the devil will be in the details of implementation, but it is still a step in the right direction on the issue, and a win for Florida water quality advocacy.

“We’re thrilled to see legislators take notice of the shortcomings in Florida’s current procedures for notifying the public about fecal bacteria contamination and work to improve the inconsistencies,” states Calusa Waterkeeper, Capt. Codty Pierce, who took over for Cassani when he retired in December 2022. “Thank you to all who have supported the Safe Waterways Act and Calusa Waterkeeper through this journey the past several years!”

Tell the Senate to Vote YES on CS/CS/HB 165: Sampling of Beach Waters and Public Bathing Spaces on March 7th.

Look Up FL Senators


Learn more about our Fecal Indicator Bacteria program, independent monitoring performed by our volunteer Rangers.

Support the mission of Calusa Waterkeeper by attending or sponsoring Our Water, Our Future this month.