Historic funding approved to protect Florida’s environment

By Staff Reports

The recent 2023 Legislative Session in Florida concluded with the state budget for Fiscal Year 2023-24 being sent to Governor Ron DeSantis. The Governor praised the significant investments made in Florida’s environment and natural resources, which serve as the backbone of its thriving economy.

Notably, the budget included a remarkable $1.6 billion allocation towards Everglades restoration and water quality projects. Additionally, Florida has managed to maintain elevated levels of reserves while making unprecedented investments in infrastructure and the environment.

In order to uphold Florida’s strong financial position amidst challenging economic conditions, Governor DeSantis vetoed $510.9 million.

Governor DeSantis aimed to invest $2.5 billion in water resource protection over four years in 2019. However, the Florida Legislature and Governor surpassed this target by securing over $3.3 billion. The Governor is continuing this historic investment with Executive Order 23-06, which calls for $3.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and water resource protection, including water quality and supply. The state budget has initiated this investment by allocating more than $1.6 billion.

In the 2023 Budget, there is over $694 million allocated towards Everglades restoration initiatives, which encompasses the following projects:

$356.5 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

$64 million for the EAA Reservoir to continue the momentum of this critical project to reduce harmful discharges and help send more clean water south of the Everglades.

$50 million is included for specific project components designed to achieve the greatest reductions in harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries as identified in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project Draft Integrated Project Implementation Report and Environmental Impact Statement dated August 2020.

$96.1 million is included for the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.

As part of the budget, there is an allocation of $796 million to improve water quality in specific areas. The goal is to achieve significant and measurable nutrient reductions, particularly in vital waterbodies throughout the state. Additionally, the initial suggestions of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force will be put into practice.

The budget allocates funds for various initiatives to improve the quality of Florida’s water resources, including $50 million for the restoration of the state’s world-renowned springs. It also includes $85 million for the continued stabilization, water treatment, and closure of Piney Point, as well as $59 million to combat the effects and impacts of harmful algal blooms, including blue-green algae and red tide.

Furthermore, the budget sets aside $17 million to support ongoing oyster restoration efforts in Apalachicola Bay, which will increase the supported acreage to 2,000 acres of durable oyster habitat.

To support the agricultural industry, the budget includes over $2.8 billion, with $52.4 million specifically designated for citrus research, the Citrus Health Response Program, and consumer awareness marketing.

Lastly, the budget provides $1 billion to safeguard important properties and waterways, including $850 million for lands within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and $100 million for the Florida Forever Program to support land conservation and recreation. ●

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