BY STAFF REPORTS
In late December, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced $100 million in state funding to go toward 21 water quality projects designed to reduce nutrients from entering the Indian River Lagoon. The funding is part of the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program, which was proposed via Executive Order 23-06, which was signed in January.
“Florida’s prized waterways draw visitors from across the world and are the foundation of our local economies,” DeSantis said in a news release. “We are advancing our efforts to protect the Indian River Lagoon through smart investments that will continue to preserve this waterway.”
According to a news release announcing the awards, the Lagoon is considered the most biologically diverse estuary in North America, acting as a key economic driver for the region. Since 2019, the state has awarded nearly $390 million to improving water quality in the region. In 2023, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 1379, which provided protections for the Lagoon:
- Creating the IRL Protection Program;
- Requiring a comprehensive water quality monitoring program; and
- Creating new requirements and prohibitions on septic systems within the IRL watershed.
“The Indian River Lagoon is one of the state’s most iconic waterways, and we are committed to meeting the challenges it faces head on,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton, in a news release. “With the historic funding secured by Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, we are able to implement important projects to improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon.”
Ten of the 21 projects were awarded to Brevard County, with the rest of the awards going to cities, a special district, and a town. Of the $100 million, nearly half relate to septic-to-sewer conversion projects, while others include advanced wastewater treatment, water reclamation, and other water quality proposals.
According to a news release, the projects intend to reduce total nitrogen loading in the region by more than 375,000 pounds per year. Excess nutrients can contribute to the increased frequency, duration and intensity of algal blooms and impact the growth of seagrass, which provide habitat and food for manatees and other species.
In addition to the funding provided this fiscal year, DeSantis has included an additional $100 million for the IRL Protection Program in his Focus on Florida’s Future budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2024-25.
A list of all projects selected for Fiscal Year 2023-24 funding can be found here.