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Guest Commentary: Governor DeSantis signs ambitious water quality order

By Staff | Jan 19, 2023

Matt DePaolis

On Jan. 10, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the sweeping Executive Order 23-06 in support of improving water quality within Florida. The order directs the state to spend $3.5 billion over the next four years on Everglades restoration and water quality improvements.

The order is an ambitious ask from the governor and seeks to improve our water quality around the state and our resiliency into the future. As more funding is directed toward Everglades restoration we expect to see less damaging discharges to the Caloosahatchee and improved water quality.

The order marks an increase of $1 billion from the executive order that was signed four years ago. It also directs additional funding to work to restore the Indian River Lagoon with $100 million earmarked for the creation of a protection program with enhanced water quality monitoring.

Beyond allocating funding, the order directs the agencies within Florida to continue their efforts to support water quality. The order directs the South Florida Water Management District to expedite Everglades restoration projects and focus on sending more clean water south to the Everglades.

It also directs the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to work with the Florida Legislature to expand the wastewater grant program to address impacts from non-point source pollution. Non-point source pollutants originate from agriculture runoff, stormwater, leaky septic systems, and similar sources and are major drivers of the nutrient pollution in our waterways. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is excited to work with our partners and the DEP to tackle the issues of non-point source pollution, algal blooms, and resiliency and improve Florida’s waters for everyone.

Additionally, the order provides guidance to the DEP to work with the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services to strengthen Basin Management Action Plans for our waterways and to improve best management practices for agriculture. If enacted properly, this could result in less nutrient pollution entering our waters.

The order also seeks to reduce harmful algal blooms within the state. It creates grant funding to work on mitigating blue-green algal blooms. Finally, the order seeks to increase resiliency around the state and will create a coral reef restoration and recovery initiative to help with coral growth and storm surge protections.

The order is a good step on the path to restoration and resiliency, and it will be important to monitor that funds are directed to projects that will have the largest impact on the quality and quantity of our water.

Matt DePaolis is the environmental policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Founded in 1967, the SCCF’s mission is to protect and care for Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems. For more information, visit www.sccf.org.