Governor Ron DeSantis Unveils Major Environmental Reforms

by | Jan 10, 2019 | C43 Reservoir, Lake Okeechobee, Policy, Press

First published in The News-Press by Thyrie Bland and Amy Bennett Williams on January 10, 2019

Newly-elected Governor Proposes Multi-billion Dollar Plan for Water Quality Protection

It’s news millions of Floridians have been waiting eight years to hear: Their governor plans to take the state’s water quality seriously and to back up those plans with serious money.

A day after his inauguration, Ron DeSantis began a three-stop tour in Southwest Florida, still reeling from months of crisis-level toxic algae and red tide, to unveil a multifaceted executive order on water policy vastly different from his predecessor’s. Later that afternoon, the dramatic action continued as he asked the entire board of the South Florida Water Management District to resign.

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani is also heartened to hear of DeSantis’ plans, which he calls “a breath of fresh air,” especially the algae task force, which he and his nonprofit have been calling for for years.

However, Cassani said, “I don’t mean to be a buzzkill, but my next question is how the Legislature is going to come up with all that money.”

The governor’s executive order also calls for:

  • Creation: The establishment of a Blue-Green Algae Task Force to speed progress toward reducing the adverse effects of toxic blooms over the next five years. Restoration plans for the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River must be updated to ensure the task force has what it needs to guide the Department of Environmental Protection as it works to improve water quality.
  • Action: The South Florida Water Management District must 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.
  • Coordination: The creation of the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency charged with organizing and directing integrated scientific research and analysis to ensure all agency actions are aligned with key environmental priorities.
  • Oversight: The appointment of a chief science officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.
  • The order expedites key Everglades projects including the C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area, C-43 reservoir in western Hendry County, Tamiami Trail and additional projects to protect waterways.
  • The order directs DEP to establish a septic conversion and remediation grant program with a local government match requirement.
  • The order creates the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help prepare Florida’s coastal communities and habitats for effects from sea level rise by providing funding, technical assistance and coordination among state, regional and local entities.
  • It directs state agencies to take actions to adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.

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