Gov. Ron DeSantis doubled down on his commitment to the Everglades and water across the Sunshine State this week, calling for three years funding from the Legislature.
On Wednesday, at an event in Naples, DeSantis asked the Legislature for $625 in recurring funds over the next three years for Everglades restoration and protecting water. DeSantis was joined by Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein, state Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and state Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral.
DeSantis also called for “legislation to increase fines for environmental crimes by 50 percent across the board” which will “empower DEP to assess daily fines until the environmental harm has been remedied or a plan has been developed in partnership with DEP to address the issue.”
“Since day one, it has been a top priority of my administration to protect our environment and find innovative solutions to the environmental issues facing our state,” said DeSantis. “This historic funding is key to the success of our fight to protect our environment and water resources, which are the foundation of Florida’s economy and way of life. A hardline increase in fines across the board sends a clear message to those who would pollute our state’s natural resources – Florida will not stand for it.”
“These historic steps to protect our environment and water quality underline a strong focus by Governor DeSantis to safeguard Florida’s natural resources,” said Valenstein. “The increase of fines will provide an additional tool to enforce the environmental laws we have on the books.”
“Florida’s natural resources are a key component to the identity of our state and to the way of life of so many Floridians,” said Bradley. “The announcements made today by Governor DeSantis will ensure the protection and conservation of our environment for generations to come. I was happy to join him and the First Lady today and I look forward to working together to accomplish these goals.”
“Last legislative session was a resounding victory for the future of Florida’s environment,” said Passidomo. “The governor has been relentless in his initiative to protect our environment and the Legislature will continue to work closely with his administration to ensure a better Florida for all.”
“Floridians across our state understand how crucial our environment and water quality is to our way of life,” said Eagle. “These initiatives by the governor, working effectively with our legislature, will play a critical role in the protection of our environment, our economy and our livelihoods in Southwest Florida.”
DeSantis’ proposals garnered the applause of some environmental leaders, including Erik Eikenberg, the CEO of the Everglades Foundation.
“Today’s announcement is a dream come true for all of us who cherish our Everglades, clean water, natural springs, pristine beaches and other natural resources,” Eikenberg said. “With this announcement, Governor DeSantis has again shown that he is a true environmental steward in the model of President Theodore Roosevelt — and that he is as good as his word.
“Governor DeSantis announced on his second day in office a $2.5-billion commitment to Florida’s environmental needs over four years, and today’s announcement is in keeping with that priority. The governor has been steadfast in keeping his promises to the millions of Floridians who support Everglades restoration and the tourism-dependent businesses in this state,” Eikenberg added. “We are grateful, and we look forward to working with Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley and the Florida Legislature to move this important investment forward.”
“The amount of momentum the governor has been able to rally behind environmental causes over the past nine months has been incredible,” said Rob Moher, the president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “There’s still much to be done to face the challenges ahead but working with leaders across our state I’m confident our focus on science-based solutions will lead to a better, cleaner environment for all Floridians.”
The governor’s proposal includes, according to his office, “at least $300 million for Everglades Restoration and the EAA Reservoir project; $50 million for springs restoration $50 million for Total Maximum Daily Load projects (TMDLs) to ensure water bodies throughout the state have appropriate nutrient levels; $15 million for projects within the St. Johns River, Suwannee River and Apalachicola River watersheds; $10 million for Coral Reef protection and restoration. The remainder of the $625 million will be appropriated for other water quality, alternative water supply, and water conservation projects, including innovative technologies for nutrient reduction and harmful algal bloom prevention and mitigation.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.