(The Center Square). When the legislature convenes next spring, one of its budget priorities will be to address record funding for environmental conservancy projects. These projects have received a wide variety of support from conservation groups and environmental groups.
Florida is still the most popular tourist and recreational destination in the United States. It is known for its beaches along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, estuaries and Everglades, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Governor. Ron DeSantis “Freedom First Budget” allocates $4.4 Billion to a variety environmental and water conservation programs.
When he announced his budget priorities earlier this year, the governor stated that Florida’s natural resource are the foundation of our state communities. The environment is key to our quality-of-life. It drives tourism, affects property value, anchors many local economies, and influences property values.
The governor’s budget proposes a total of $980 million to restore Floridas Everglades, and protect Floridas water resources. It expands on an executive order DeSantis had previously issued, calling for $2.5billion in investments over four years to protect water resources. Florida’s proposed funding exceeds that amount, bringing Florida’s four-year investment up to $3 billion and doubling the investment made in the previous four years.
The funding includes $660million for Everglades restoration, $195million for targeted water quality improvements and $35 million to improve water quality. $5 million is additional funding to address red tide cleanup.
DeSantis stated, “When I took office, my bold vision was to protect Floridas environment.” We have achieved great results so far but we are not yet there. It is great to see so many people coming together to support these initiatives.
Eric Eikenberg, chief executive of the Everglades Foundation, stated that $660 million was the largest investment in Everglades restoration in the program’s history. He stated that the funding will not only help with restoration efforts but also save and create jobs, boost our state’s tourism-based economy, as well as provide tangible benefits for Floridians.
The budget also invests over $550 million in strengthening the resilience of Florida’s coastal and inland communities. It also includes $151.7 million to protect Florida’s most prized properties. This includes $100 million to Florida Forever and $51.7 million to improve infrastructure and manage natural resources at Florida’s award-winning state park.
The budget includes $50 million to restore Florida’s world-famous springs, $100 Million for continued stabilization, treatment and closure at Piney Point, as well as $40 million for the alternative funding program for water supply. This will help communities plan and implement vital conservation, reuse, and other water supply projects.
Last year, Governor Scott championed passage of the Resilient Florida Program. This program increased efforts to protect Florida’s inland waters, coastlines, shores, and coral reefs. The proposed budget expands on this investment by adding $550 million.
Noah Valenstein (ex-Secretary of Environmental Protection) said that Florida has serious flooding issues to address. However, he is a Governor who is serious and willing to deliver solutions that can lead the nation in resilience funding policy and policy. The Resilient Florida Program, which works with communities, will make use of environmental investments to reduce flooding in Florida and protect Florida’s water supplies.
Floridians face increased flooding and higher seas daily as they come off yet another active hurricane season. Kate Wesner is the Florida director of American Flood Coalition. These funds, along with the historic Always Ready legislation that was passed earlier in the year, are another historic investment in resilience. They will help build a stronger, more prepared Florida.
Temperince M. Morgan, executive director at The Nature Conservancy in Florida, praised the $550m allocation. He also stated that a strong commitment towards addressing climate change from all sectors is the only way to protect Floridians against sea-level rising and other impacts on the 1,400-mile coastline and the communities living along it.
Dr. Jennifer Jurado, Broward County’s chief resilience officer, said that the funding comes at an important time when local governments are being pressured to address the effects of rising sea levels and increased flooding.
The budget also prioritizes Florida’s 1,300-mile coastline. It says this is critical to our economy and quality life. Millions travel from all corners of the globe to visit our world-famous beaches.
It provides $50 million for beach nourishment to restore eroded shorelines. $137 million is available to clean up contaminated sites due to petroleum tanks, dry cleaning solvent, hazardous materials, and $53 millions to implement the State Mitigation plan for the $166 Million Volkswagen Clean Air Act settlement. The settlement covers diesel emission reductions, as well as funds for electric vehicle infrastructure.
The budget also provides $3.8 million for the protection of the manatee population in the state and up to $2 million for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which will remove pythons and other pests from the Everglades. This funding is $2 million more than the current year.
The largest portion of the environmental budget, over $1.7 billion, goes to the state agricultural industry.
While Florida has not suffered the same wildfire damage as other states, the budget allocates $6.7 Million for wildfire suppression equipment and $4,000,000 for road and bridge maintenance.