On January 8, 2019, after being sworn in as the 46th Governor of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis outlined his priorities highlighting the importance of Florida's environment and Everglades and vowing to prioritize them for all Floridians.
For Florida, the quality of our water and environmental surroundings are foundational to our prosperity as a state – it doesn’t just drive tourism; it affects property values, anchors many local economies and is central to our quality of life. The water is part and parcel of Florida’s DNA. Protecting it is the smart thing to do; it’s also the right thing to do.
I will lead the efforts to save our waterways. We will fight toxic blue-green algae, we will fight discharges from Lake Okeechobee, we will fight red tide, we will fight for our fishermen, we will fight for our beaches, we will fight to restore our Everglades and we will never ever quit, we won’t be cowed and we won’t let the foot draggers stand in our way." - Governor Ron DeSantis
Then, on January 10, 2019, Governor DeSantis announced on an aggressive plan to right Florida's water woes including a reprioritization of the design and construction of the EAA Reservoir, a key component of Everglades restoration.
Executive Order 19-12 includes:
- Creating an Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help prepare Florida’s coastal communities for impacts from sea level rise.
- Creating a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, with a focus on reducing nutrient pollution in Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries that serve as its relief valves.
- Appointing a Chief Science Officer to align scientific work with the environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.
- Creating an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency to lead scientific research and analysis ensuring all agency actions are aligned with environmental priorities.
- Directing the South Florida Water Management District to immediately start the next phase of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project design.
- A big hike in funding for Everglades restoration and protecting water resources — to the tune of $2.5 billion over the next four years.
- Updating all restoration plans, within a year, for bodies of water impacting South Florida, including Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
- Directing the state Department of Environmental Protection to establish a grant program for septic conversion and remediation.
- Instructing the state's five water management districts to prioritize funding for projects that address harmful algae blooms and maximize nutrient pollution reductions.
- Moving the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Unit from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to DEP to align resources "and ensure strong enforcement of Florida’s environmental laws."
- Opposing all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.
Since he issued EO 19-12, Governor DeSantis has
- Replaced the entire Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District
- Appointed a Chief Science Officer
- Established a Blue-Green Algae Task Force
- Prioritized $625 Million annually for Everglades Restoration and protection of Florida's water resources in his budget proposal to the legislature
If the first few months of his tenure is any indication, we can expect to see science prioritized over special interests, aggressive action on toxins in our waterways, and a renewed vigor in restoring America's Everglades to ensure they are healthy for generations to come. We could not think of a better example of Political Will!