Florida Leads on the Environment

Florida’s environmental resources are vital to our state’s prosperity. Since taking office, Governor DeSantis has implemented major reforms to achieve more for Florida’s environment. Under the Governor’s leadership, record funding for Everglades restoration and the protection of water resources has been appropriated, and the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget builds upon these significant investments to prioritize our important natural resources.

The environment remains a key focus of the budget, with significant investments made for Fiscal Year 2021-22. As part of more than $4.3 billion in funding to protect our environment, agriculture and natural resources, the budget includes $2.2 billion specifically for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Further Protection of our Valuable and Vulnerable Coastlines

Upon taking office, Governor DeSantis set forth to develop resilience goals for the state to help protect Florida’s coastal communities and fortify its pathway to continued prosperity. To establish these goals, the Governor appointed the state’s first Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) with the direction to coordinate a statewide response to better prepare for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of sea level rise, intensified storms events, and localized flooding. The Governor’s appointment of the CRO was the first tangible step towards strong, coordinated leadership on resiliency.

The Governor’s recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 takes the next tangible step to address the challenges of sea level rise, intensified storm events, and localized flooding by establishing the Resilient Florida program. The Resilient Florida program will provide $1 billion over four years to provide grants to state and local government entities to fund projects to adapt regionally significant assets to address the impacts of sea level rise, intensified storms and localized flooding.

Specifically, in Fiscal Year 2021-22, the Governor’s recommended budget includes $12.1 million to close the gap for statewide sea level rise/vulnerability assessments. These funds would allow DEP to grant up to $100,000 to all remaining coastal counties, coastal municipalities, and inland counties who have not completed vulnerability assessments. Additionally, the Governor’s recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 includes more than $165 million for the first of four years of the Resilient Florida program.

The Governor’s budget includes $25 million from existing Documentary Stamp Tax revenue for the Resilient Florida program, and recommends increases each year by $25 million until reaching $100 million by the 2024-2025 fiscal year. Taking advantage of historically low interest rates, these funds are provided as debt service to bond more than $1 billion in total program funding for grants.

Protecting Florida’s 1,300 miles of coastline is important for our growing economy and quality of life, as millions travel from around the world to visit our world-renowned beaches. The budget includes $50 million in beach nourishment funding to continue addressing shoreline erosion.

The budget includes $10 million for the Resilient Coastlines Program within the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection within DEP. This program helps prepare Florida’s communities and habitats for changes resulting from sea level rise by providing funding and technical assistance and continuing to promote and ensure a coordinated approach to planning among state, regional and local agencies. The funding for coastal resiliency grants will also help protect Florida’s coral reefs which serve as the state’s first line of defense from storm surge. They are a major tourism attraction and support emergency sand placement to help fortify coastal areas ahead of storms.

Continued Improvements for Water Quality, Quantity and Supply

In Executive Order 19-12, among other major environmental reforms, Governor DeSantis called for $2.5 billion to be invested over four years for Everglades restoration and the protection of water resources, an increase of $1 billion over the previous four years. After two years in office, Florida is over halfway to reaching that goal by securing over $1.25 billion. The Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget continues this investment, dedicating more than $625 million for Everglades restoration and the protection of water resources.

The budget includes more than $473 million for Everglades restoration projects, including $32 million for Restoration Strategies, $311 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, $50 million for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project, and $80 million for the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.

This level of funding will put Florida on track to complete the C-44 Reservoir and stormwater treatment area, the C-43 Reservoir, and additional projects over the next two years. These projects will provide 700,000 acre-feet of storage and remove more than 365,000 pounds of total phosphorus annually, a major source of nutrient pollution. The budget includes $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.

The budget also includes $145 million for targeted water quality improvements to achieve significant, meaningful and measurable nutrient reductions in key waterbodies across the state and to implement the initial recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force. This includes:

$100 million for cost-share grant funds for water quality improvements, including septic conversions and upgrades, other wastewater improvements, and rural and urban stormwater system upgrades. $45 million to accelerate projects to meet scientific nutrient reduction goals (called Total Maximum Daily Loads), which may include green infrastructure investments or land conservation to protect our water resources.

On top of the investment in targeted water quality improvements, the budget includes $50 million to restore Florida’s world-renowned springs. This funding may also be used for land acquisition to protect springsheds and is crucial to supporting homeowners and local communities as they work with the state to achieve nutrient reduction requirements.

The budget supports a $25 million investment to improve water quality and combat the effects and impacts of harmful algal blooms, including blue-green algae and red tide. The budget includes the following:

$10 million for innovative technologies and short-term solutions to aid in the prevention, cleanup and mitigation of harmful algal blooms. $10.8 million to increase water quality monitoring, support the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, and to improve and maintain the water quality public information portal. This portal is focused on accountability and transparency, providing monitoring data for all of Florida’s outstanding springs and key waterbodies, as well as allow the public to track the investment in projects and progress in attaining water quality goals. $4.2 million to continue supporting the Center for Red Tide Research within the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and to support the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force and partnerships for mitigation and technology development with a renewed focus on red tide.

$40 million is included for the alternative water supply grant program to help communities plan for and implement vital conservation, reuse and other alternative water supply projects. DEP will continue to engage local governments, industry, universities and water management districts to identify and research all viable alternative water supply sources and is working to provide an assessment of funding needs critical to supporting Florida’s growing economy.

Investing in Clean Lands and Air

The budget includes $67 million for the cleanup of contaminated sites with a focus on promoting redevelopment of these areas once cleanup has been completed. Working with federal and local partners, cleanup and redevelopment of these sites will ensure Florida’s new businesses and growing communities can safely develop and our economy can continue to grow. Specific investments include:

$60 million for Petroleum Tanks Cleanup; $4 million for Dry Cleaning Solvent Contaminated Site Cleanup; $2 million for Hazardous Waste Contaminated Site Cleanup; and $1 million for Cleanup of State-Owned contaminated sites.

The budget also includes $30 million for the implementation of the State Mitigation Plan for the $166 million Volkswagen Clean Air Act settlement. The plan addresses diesel emission reduction, including funds for electric vehicle infrastructure and electric buses.

A Commitment to Florida’s Prized Properties and Waters

The budget includes $82 million to protect our prized properties and waters in Florida. This funding will ensure all Floridians have access to enjoy our pristine natural environment, while protecting these unique natural resources and investing in the management of our state-owned lands.

As land acquisition is vital to both our economic growth and environmental protection, the budget includes $50 million for the Florida Forever Program, the state’s premier conservation and recreation land acquisition program for the Division of State Lands to acquire land with a focus on protecting our water resources for Floridians and visitors.

Florida’s State Parks won the National Gold Medal a record four times for having the best park system nationally. The budget dedicates $32 million to infrastructure improvements and resource management with the goal of maintaining this high standard, and ensuring all visitors and residents alike have access to these prized properties for generations to come

Investing in Florida’s Agriculture

The budget includes more than $1.7 billion for Florida’s agricultural industry. In order to preserve Florida’s iconic citrus industry, the budget invests $20.2 million for citrus research, the Citrus Health Response Program and for consumer awareness marketing efforts. Additionally, recognizing the importance of effectively combatting wildfires, the budget includes $3.3 million for wildfire suppression equipment and $4 million for road and bridge maintenance to allow for better access for land management and wildfire suppression activities.