Environmental groups say they are “encouraged” by the announcement of Gov. Ron DeSantis detailing a major policy order in his first week in office regarding water quality. They say protecting the state’s environment and water quality is critical to maintaining Florida’s thriving economy.
DeSantis released details of the plan Thursday morning.
The executive order, called Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment, includes a $1 billion increase in funding over the next four years for the restoration of the Everglades and water quality protection.
The proposal also creates a task force that will explore ways to reduce the blue-green algae blooms that have plagued Florida’s waterways.
“Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida,” said DeSantis, who has called himself a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist.” “The protection of water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state. That’s why today I’m taking immediate action to combat the threats which have devastated our local economies and threatened the health of our communities.”
The plan won the praises of Audubon Florida.
“It’s only the Governor’s second day in office, and Audubon is encouraged by this move to address Florida’s water crises,” said Sean Cooley, the Florida spokesman for the group. “In Florida, our ecology is our economy, and we must protect the incredible natural resources that make Florida special. Our way of life depends on it.”
The Sierra Club Florida says it is “pleased” that DeSantis chose to make the state’s water problems an immediate and top priority of his administration.
“In his first week in office, Governor DeSantis has done more to address Florida’s water quality crisis than Governor Rick Scott did in eight years,” said Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director
Jackalone says the group likes the emphasis DeSantis places on reducing nutrient pollution, but it still has major concerns about water quality issues in Florida. He says the Sierra Club opposes immediate work on what it calls “the poorly designed” Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir and the failure to address climate change as a contributor to Florida’s water problems.
Under the plan, the state would increase spending on Everglades restoration by $1 billion raising the amount to be spent on the restoration efforts and water quality protection over the next four years to $2.5 billion — the highest level of funding for restoration in Florida’s history, according to the DeSantis administration.
The South Florida Water Management District will be directed to immediately start the next phase of the design of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project and ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the project according to schedule.
The Blue-Green Algae Task Force will focus its efforts on expediting progress toward reducing the adverse impacts of blue-green algae blooms over the next five years.
One Democratic legislative leader expressed concern over where the money to fund the policy will come from.
“His order calls for the securing of $2.5 billion over the next four years to invest in Everglades restoration and protecting our water resources, but there is no identification of where that money will come from,” said Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, the Senate Democratic leader. “Will he turn to the Trump Administration? Or will he be seeking help from the Legislature? Can our state budget handle this increase? Is the plan to cut into other programs to raise the needed funds? Will Floridians lose services in one area to offset the costs for water cleanup?”
The executive order also creates the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency. The office will be responsible for organizing and directing scientific research and analysis to ensure that all agency actions are aligned with key environmental priorities.
The plan also calls for the appointment of a Chief Science Officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.