At the beginning of the new year, Governor DeSantis released his Executive Order 23- 06, Achieving Even More Now for Florida’s Environment, an expansion on Executive Order 19-12, released when he first took office. This new executive order secures $3.5 billion for Everglades restoration, water quality, and water supply, setting a target for total state investment at a record-breaking $6.8 billion by the end of his administration's second term. The executive order prioritizes the restoration of one of the most biodiverse estuaries in the country, the Indian River Lagoon, as well as additional investments in resiliency and land conservation across the state through programs like Florida Forever. It also prioritizes expanding the Wastewater Grant Program through the Florida Legislature.
The executive order outlines specific directives for various state agencies. For the South Florida Water Management District, these include continuing to expedite Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects, providing progress updates on U.S. Army Corps projects, and implementing the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual effectively. In addition, it asks the South Florida Water Management District to ensure meaningful progress on water storage components in the Lake Okeechobee watershed, the EAA Reservoir, and Indian River Lagoon-South Projects.
Given the state’s current battle with red tide on the west coast and the perennial problem of blue-green algal blooms in the northern estuaries, the executive order focuses on reducing these occurrences through initiatives with the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, the Department of Health, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force, and the red tide emergency grant program.
Another goal of the executive order is to improve nutrient-impaired waterbodies by updating and strengthening Basin Management Action Plans to meet water quality standards, requiring local governments to expedite high-priority projects, and funding regional projects that will address pollution from nonpoint sources. The Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services will be critical in the latter effort as well as in improving Best Management Practices for agriculture.
Finally, the executive order also contains an important directive on enhanced coordination by state agencies with local governments to improve comprehensive planning. This is especially valuable in South Florida as we work to protect the Everglades and expedite restoration while balancing the need for continued growth. It has never been more clear that this is necessary, especially in light of all of the new development applications in MiamiDade County.