February 24, 2021

Florida Advancing Water Quality and Everglades Restoration

Jan 15, 2021 | , , , , ,

FLORIDA – Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) celebrate the two year anniversary of Executive Order 19-12. Governor DeSantis signed this landmark Executive Order less than 48 hours after being sworn into office, outlining his bold vision for Florida’s environment.

The Executive Order directs strategic action with a focus on accountability, transparency and collaboration, including a proposed $2.5 billion investment in Everglades restoration and protection of water resources over four years.

“A clean and abundant supply of water is inextricably linked to our future prosperity and economic well-being,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “This executive order laid the foundation for immediate action and represented a fundamental change in environmental policy for our state. I am proud of our accomplishments to date, our work has only just begun.”

Specifically, the order calls for:

  • Commitment of $2.5 billion over four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources, which is a $1 billion increase in spending over the previous four years and the highest level of funding for restoration in Florida’s history.
  • 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.
  • Expediting Everglades restoration, including instruction to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to immediately start the next phase of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir Project design, and ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the project according to schedule.
  • Creation of the 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.
  • 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.
  • Transfer of the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Unit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) back to DEP to better align resources focused on environmental protection and ensure strong enforcement of Florida’s environmental laws.
“From the day he took office, the Governor has made it clear that achieving more for Florida’s environment is a top priority. He cemented that commitment with clear direction and decisive action outlined in Executive Order 19-12,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein. “Since that time, an environmental movement has taken shape in Florida allowing us to lead the nation and resulting in unprecedented protections of Florida’s water quality.”

As a result of Governor DeSantis’ leadership, the state of Florida has made the following accomplishments under the executive order:

  • Secured more than $625 million each of the last two years for Everglades restoration and the protection of water resources keeping the state on track to meet the Governor’s $2.5 billion commitment.
  • Florida is expediting all 27 Everglades restoration projects prioritized by DEP and the SFWMD, including the EAA Reservoir Project. By 2022, as a result of positive changes under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida will have completed or broken ground on 15 of the most critical Everglades restoration projects that reduce harmful discharges and send more water south.
  • Appointed Dr. Thomas Frazer as Chief Science Officer.
  • Created the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency, led by the chief science officer and charged with ensuring key water quality objectives are clearly communicated to the public, while also organizing state resources and scientific expertise, data and research to solve complex challenges.
  • The Blue-Green Algae Task Force has met eight times to deliberate on some of the state’s most critical water-quality issues. This task force developed a list of scientific recommendations aimed at minimizing the impacts of nutrient pollution that provided a foundation for the Clean Waterways Act.
  • Championed and Signed the historic Clean Waterways Act during the 2020 Legislative Session. A few historic aspects of this legislation include:
    • Regulation of septic tanks as a source of nutrients and oversight transfer from the Florida Department of Health to DEP.
    • Contingency plans for power outages to minimize discharges of untreated wastewater for all sewage disposal facilities.
    • Provision of financial records from all sanitary sewage disposal facilities so DEP can ensure funds are being allocated to infrastructure upgrades, repairs and maintenance that prevent systems from falling into states of disrepair.
    • Detailed documentation of fertilizer use by agricultural operations to ensure compliance with Best Management Practices and aid in evaluation of their effectiveness.
    • Updated stormwater rules and design criteria to improve the performance of stormwater systems statewide to specifically address nutrients.
  • House Bill 1091, which also passed the Florida Legislature unanimously in 2020, increases penalties for sanitary sewer overflows by 100% and all other environmental penalties by 50%.
  • Secured unanimous passage of House Bill 5401 in 2019 which transferred the Environmental Crimes Unit from FWC back to DEP. Since the transfer, the unit has issued 59 felonies, 212 misdemeanors and 574 warnings for environmental violations.
  • Appointed a Chief Resilience Officer with the direction to coordinate a statewide response to better prepare for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of sea level rise.
“Valuable progress has been made during these past two years and Florida is well positioned to build on those successes,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazer “The Governor’s unwavering commitment to Florida’s environment has been instrumental and I am thankful to serve as Chief Science Officer during a time when science figures prominently in the development and implementation of robust environmental policy and management.”

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