Water Quality Policies A Focus for New Governor

Newly-elected Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced a new Executive Order focused on water policies, and asked for the immediate resignations of all South Florida Water Management District board members as one of his first actions in office.

“Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida,” DeSantis said in a news release. “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.”

Conservation groups were generally positive to the Governor’s actions.   Sierra Club chapter director Frank Jackalone noted in a press release how badly our environmental situation had deteriorated by calling out former Republican Governor Rick Scott as no friend to the Florida environment, “In his first week in office, Gov. DeSantis has done more to address Florida’s water quality crisis than Gov. Rick Scott did in eight years.” 

Florida Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson said she’s encouraged by the announcement, but asked the source of increased Everglades restoration funding, and whether other state programs will suffer as a result. 

The executive order: 

  •  Dedicates $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources. It’s a $1 billion increase in spending over the previous four years and the highest level of funding for restoration in Florida’s history.
  • Creates 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.
  •  Instructs the South Florida Water Management District to immediately start the next phase of the EAA reservoir design and ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the project according to schedule.
  • Creates an 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.
  • Appoints a chief science officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis of needs to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.
  •  Expedites key Everglades projects including the C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area, C-43 reservoir, Tamiami Trail and additional projects necessary to protect waterways.
  • Directs the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to establish a septic conversion and remediation grant program with a local government match requirement.
  •  Creates the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help prepare Florida’s coastal communities and habitats for impacts from sea level rise by providing funding, technical assistance and coordination among state, regional and local entities.
  •  Directs state agencies to take necessary actions to adamantly oppose all offshore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.

DeSantis also announced he would overturn about 80 “midnight appointments” Scott made to state boards in the last week of his term.