Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants to clean up the Everglades. According to a story published by the Orlando Political Observer, the governor’s environmental budget recommends more than $625 million for the restoration of the troubled national park and the protection of valuable water resources. This sum is $1 billion more than the amount invested in the previous four years to protect the state’s water resources.
“This historic budget proposal will have a substantial impact on the water and quality of life in Florida,” DeSantis reportedly said. “This is not a partisan issue; this is something that Floridians from all walks of life and political persuasions think needs to be done. I look forward to working with the legislature on bringing this into fruition and getting the job done for the people of this state.”
The budget includes a record $360 million for Everglades restoration projects, a level of funding that will put Florida on track to complete the C-44 Reservoir and stormwater treatment area, the C-43 Reservoir and 20 additional projects over the next five years. Together, these projects will provide 672,000 acre-feet of storage and remove almost 200,000 pounds of phosphorus, a major source of nutrient pollution, annually.
These projects will significantly reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee when combined with updates to the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, as requested by DeSantis in his Jan. 4 letter to the president.
The budget also suggests $150 million be spent for targeted water quality improvements and measurable nutrient reductions in key water bodies across the state. This includes $100 million for cost-share grant funds for water quality improvements, including septic conversions and upgrades, other wastewater improvements, and rural and urban stormwater system upgrades.
The governor’s budget also suggests that $50 million go toward speeding up projects to meet scientific nutrient reduction goals. This funding will support projects to reduce nutrient pollution and harmful algal blooms in the state’s treasured waterways.
DeSantis wants another $50 million put toward restoring Florida’s world-renowned springs. The funding may be used for land acquisition to protect spring sheds and will be crucial to supporting homeowners and local communities as they work with the state toward achieving the septic and nutrient reduction requirements called for in the 2016 Water Bill.
The budget supports a more than $25 million investment to improve water quality and combat the impact of harmful algal blooms, including blue-green algae and red tide. It includes the continuation of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s emergency red tide grant program and may also address water quality treatment technologies for Lake Okeechobee.
In addition, some $10.8 million is recommended to increase water quality monitoring, support the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, and to develop a water quality public information portal focused on accountability and transparency. It will provide monitoring data for all of Florida’s outstanding springs and key water bodies and allow the public to track the investment and the progress in attaining water quality goals.
The governor wants $40 million spent on an alternative water supply grant program to help communities plan for and implement vital conservation, reuse and other alternative water supply projects. In this effort, the DEP will engage local governments, industry, universities and water management districts to identify and research all viable alternative water supply sources.
DeSantis also wants to start an Environmental Crimes Enforcement Unit within DEP. This will allow DEP to conduct both civil and criminal investigations when environmental laws are broken.