Ron DeSantis Pledges $3.5 Billion for Everglades Restoration Over Next Four Years

This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on Everglades restoration, committing $3.5 billion to it over the next four years.

“The executive order directs strategic action with a focus on accountability, sound science, progress, and collaboration and includes a proposed $3.5 billion investment over four years for Everglades restoration and protection of our water resources, surpassing the historic investments of the past four years and making it the highest level of funding in Florida’s history,” the governor’s office announced.

“Four years ago, I promised to pursue a bold agenda and to commit to lead Florida into a new era of stewardship for Florida’s natural resources, and we delivered,” said DeSantis. “Today, I am proud to announce the next step in this administration’s continued dedication to Florida’s treasured environment. This order directs funding and strategic action that will continue our momentum and enhance our ongoing efforts to expedite critical Everglades restoration projects, employ sound science to protect and restore our waterways, and fund infrastructure projects to improve water quality and safeguard Florida’s water supply.”

The order directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to: “secure an historic $3.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of our water resources, including water quality and water supply; prioritize the protection of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) and secure at least $100 million annually for priority projects to improve water quality in the IRL; expand the existing Wastewater Grant Program by broadening project eligibility to address impacts to water quality from nonpoint sources such as stormwater and agricultural runoff; ensure that all wastewater facilities discharging to waterbodies within a basin management action plan (BMAP) area or waterbody not attaining water quality standards upgrade to advanced wastewater treatment by 2033; coordinate with the Department of Economic Opportunity to improve local government long-term comprehensive planning to encourage successful and sustainable growth while protecting natural resources; strengthen BMAPs, which provide a roadmap to restoring water quality and reducing pollutants, to include the specific projects necessary to meet the requisite water quality standards to achieve restoration goals; rnsure continued funding for statewide resilience projects through the Resilient Florida Program;” and “take all necessary steps to expedite the state’s land conservation efforts, including a strategic focus on acquisitions within the Wildlife Corridor.”

The order directs the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to: “continue to expedite Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP) projects; make every effort to ensure meaningful progress on Everglades restoration projects undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), including the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project;” and “work with the Corps to ensure the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) is implemented in a manner that reduces discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and sends more water south to benefit the environment and meet the needs of our communities.”

DeSantis’ order would also have the Blue-Green Algae Task and Harmful Algal Bloom Task Forces continue their week while keeping the red tide emergency grant program and creating “a similar blue-green algae grant program to support state and local government response efforts.”

Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg cheered the governor’s announcement.

“The Everglades Foundation applauds Governor DeSantis’ four-year record commitment of $3.5 billion for the Everglades. The Governor’s bold agenda will undoubtedly lead to more progress in Everglades restoration and in addressing Florida’s water quality challenges,” said Eikenberg.
“The restoration of America’s Everglades is paramount to Florida’s clean water-based economy and the governor has made a concerted effort to ensure Florida significantly invests in its future. A reliable source of clean freshwater for 9 million residents and countless tourists is at stake and today’s announcement demonstrates that Everglades restoration and Florida’s resilience remains a top priority for the second term of his administration.”

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership and with the support of the Florida Legislature, the state has taken unprecedented steps to effectively address our most pressing environmental issues,” said Department of Environmental Protection Sec. Shawn Hamilton. “With this renewed support and direction, Florida’s environment will remain a priority and we will continue to have the resources to bolster our long-term environmental programs and meet the needs of our diverse state.”

“Governor Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order 23-06 ramps up our efforts to accomplish even more to protect and restore Florida’s environment,” said South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss. “In Governor DeSantis’ first term, we broke ground on, hit a major milestone and completed more than 50 Everglades restoration projects. Because of his unwavering commitment to our natural resources, the South Florida Water Management District will be able to do more to move water south, reduce harmful discharges, and improve water quality. I cannot think of a better way to recognize the anniversary of Executive Order 19-12 than to set out Florida’s boldest environmental agenda yet with the signing of Executive Order 23-06.”

“Governor Ron DeSantis has long demonstrated his continued commitment to protecting Florida’s waterways and critical natural resources,” said state Chief Science Officer Dr. Mark Rains. “Thanks to his leadership and the historic amounts of funding his administration has secured during his first term, the state is now in a position where we can build on previous environmental successes and take continued strategic action to improve water quality. I look forward to working with the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and other stakeholders to continue accelerating achievements for Florida’s environment.”

“When it comes to protecting Florida’s environment and enhancing the resilience of our communities, Governor DeSantis has already amassed one of the most consequential tenures in the state’s history,” said state Chief Resilience Officer Dr. Wes Brooks. “Today, our governor set an even more ambitious floor for what Floridians can expect from state government over the next four years. From ensuring that all local flood risk planning and adaptation efforts are informed by comprehensive vulnerability assessments to launching a cutting-edge restoration and recovery initiative for Florida’s Coral Reef, I’m excited to get to work delivering on the governor’s bold commitments and inspiring vision for Florida’s future.”

Everglades Trust CEO Anna Upton also weighed in on the governor’s order.

“A week after his inauguration, on the anniversary of the momentous executive order he signed in his first term, Governor DeSantis has signed a new executive order laying out a blueprint that builds off the promises he fulfilled during his first term,” she said. “The executive order increases his funding commitment to $3.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration, water quality initiatives, and protecting water supply for Floridians, businesses and tourists alike, and it includes other promises that only further solidify him as America’s Everglades governor.

“There is no doubt Governor DeSantis’ commitment to the Everglades in his first term was monumental, but the commitment he has made to the Everglades and the environment in the newly signed executive order is unquestionably historic,” she added. “Time and time again, Governor DeSantis makes promises, and he delivers on those promises. If his first term is any indication of what he can accomplish, Floridians and the great state of Florida will see a historic commitment become a reality.”

Kevin Derby
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