Legislature Swoops in to Save Wakulla Springs From 16-Pump Gas Station

Legislature Swoops in to Save Wakulla Springs From 16-Pump Gas Station

The Florida Legislature takes steps to prevent oil companies from building gas stations on natural Florida springs

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
March 18, 2024

WAKULLA, FL—Wakulla Springs, the largest underground cave system in America, will be saved from an oil company's plan to build a 16-pump gas station over the freshwater territory.

One of the world's largest and deepest freshwater springs, Wakulla's crystal clear waters are home to manatees, alligators, turtles, and...a gas station?

Not anymore, thanks to the Florida Legislature's allocation of nearly $4 million in the state budget to purchase and preserve the land.

Spearheaded by Republican Rep. Jason Shoaf, his efforts follow Southwest Georgia Oil Company's request for zoning changes to the territory, which would have let the company construct a 16-pump gas station on part of the property.

A citizen-led protest comprised of environmentalists and worried residents erupted during the August Wakulla County Commissioner's meeting, citing fears of contaminated water and destruction of resources. This led the company to eventually halt its gas station plans.

Concerned Wakulla resident David Damon told WFSU in September that even though Southwest had backed off, he still worried that other oil companies may swoop in and seize the land if the government doesn't step in.

Citizens' fears of contaminants aren't unfounded: underground gas storage tanks hold tens of thousands of gallons of fuel, and are one of the most common sources of groundwater pollution. A leak from one of these tanks can quickly seep into the groundwater, meaning that "even a dribble can pollute a wide area," according to Grist, a non-profit climate group.

"Ten gallons of gasoline can contaminate 12 million gallons of groundwater — a significant risk, given that groundwater is the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans," Grist reported.

Rep. Shoaf responded this Legislative Session with his budget allocation, allowing the property's preservation and purchasing through Conservation Florida, a land trust organization dedicated to protecting the state's natural landscapes.

“In my book, it's a win-win for everyone involved," Shoaf said. "I would even love to see it go a step further and either put a welcome center there or let a non-profit run it so we can educate the public on these underground water systems.”

The allocation, however, won't go into effect until Gov. DeSantis signs the budget.

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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