Newly appointed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced a raft of major water policy reforms and increased multi $billion dollar funding aimed at ensuring the protection of Florida’s environment and water quality.
Announcing the new measures, Governor Ron DeSantis said:
“Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida. The protection of water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state. That’s why today I’m taking immediate action to combat the threats which have devastated our local economies and threatened the health of our communities.”
The Executive Order signed by the Governor calls for:
- $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources – a $1 billion increase in spending over the previous four years and the highest level of funding for restoration in Florida’s history.
- The Establishment of a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, charged with focusing on expediting progress toward reducing the adverse impacts of blue-green algae blooms now and over the next five years.
- Instruction to the South Florida Water Management District to immediately start the next phase of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project design and ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the project according to schedule.
- The Creation of an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency charged with organizing and directing integrated scientific research and analysis to ensure that all agency actions are aligned with key environmental priorities.
- The Appointment of a Chief Science Officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis needs to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.
Section 1 of the order, which has a specific focus on rapid improvement for water quality, quantity and supply goes into more detail of the new measures, including:
- The Blue-Green Algae Task Force to support key funding and restoration initiatives to expedite nutrient reductions in Lake Okeechobee and the downstream estuaries, identify priority projects and build upon Basin Management Action Plans to provide the largest and most meaningful nutrient reductions in key waterbodies
- Update and secure all restoration plans, within one year, for waterbodies impacting South Florida communities
- Expedite key Everglades projects including the C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area, C-43 reservoir, Tamiami Trail and additional projects
- Work with the South Florida Water Management District to add stormwater treatment to the C-43 Reservoir to provide additional treatment and improve the quality of water
- Expedite projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve management of Lake Okeechobee, including updating the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule and identifying water quality treatment technologies to install near water control structures in Lake Okeechobee.
- Instruct all five water management districts to increase transparency and accountability by providing data and information to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to support key water quality restoration efforts. Instruct all water management districts to review budgets and prioritize available funding to focus on projects that will help address harmful algae blooms and maximize nutrient reductions.
- Partner with Visit Florida and DEO to identify opportunities within communities and recommend investments in green infrastructure, such as wetland treatment systems
- Engage local governments, industry, universities and water management districts to identify and research all viable alternative water supply sources and provide an assessment of funding needs critical to supporting Florida’s growing economy.
- DEP should take all necessary steps to establish recurring funding for an alternative water supply grant program to help communities plan for and implement vital conservation, reuse and other alternative water supply projects.
- Continue to explore every option to stop Georgia’s harmful upstream water use from causing further adverse impacts to the Apalachicola River and Bay.
New Office of Resilience & Coastal Protection to prepare for sea level rise
The Governor is also proposing to create an Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help prepare Florida’s coastal communities and habitats for impacts from sea level rise by providing funding, technical assistance and coordination among state, regional and local entities.
The order also stipulations the need to take “necessary actions to adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.”