By Staff Reports
On May 30, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill (HB) 1379 into law. This legislation is of great importance, as it provides enhanced protections for the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), expands the current wastewater grant program, strengthens Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs), improves local government long-term comprehensive planning, and creates dedicated funding for the state’s land conservation efforts.
“We have made historic strides in environmental protection, water quality, and land conservation under the leadership of Governor DeSantis and with the support of the Florida legislature,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “This legislation will allow us to further expedite and advance these efforts.”
The passing of HB 1379 signifies a significant milestone in safeguarding Florida’s environment through comprehensive measures. This legislation encompasses various protective measures including:
• Enhancing protection of the IRL by creating the IRL Protection Program and requiring a comprehensive water quality monitoring program. Additionally, this bill creates new requirements for septic systems to protect and restore the IRL.
• Expanding the eligibility requirements for the Wastewater Grant Program to include stormwater and agriculture and expanding the geographic areas of eligibility to include all waterbodies that are not meeting water quality standards.
• Strengthening BMAPs by requiring local governments to identify projects that will help meet nutrient reduction goals and expanding water quality protections from septic tanks and wastewater treatment facilities within BMAPs.
• Improving local government long-term comprehensive planning to support environmental protection and restoration by requiring comprehensive plans to determine the feasibility of providing sewer over septic in certain areas and upgrading systems to advanced wastewater treatment.
Florida’s conservation efforts will be accelerated through the allocation of $100 million annually to the Florida Forever Program, which is the state’s top program for acquiring conservation and recreation lands. This bill aims to support and prioritize the preservation of Florida’s natural resources. ●