Governor DeSantis signs Executive Order 23-06, recommitted to protecting Florida’s waterways

“We are encouraged by the Governor’s announcement today, recommitting to making Florida’s environment a priority. This Executive Order strengthens the previous commitments made to improve Florida’s waters and builds on the momentum of the past four years.”
-Mark Perry, Executive Director and CEO of Florida Oceanographic Society

Today Governor DeSantis recommitted to protecting Florida’s waterways by signing Executive Order 23-06. The governor vows to continue the historic momentum of the last four years.

$3.5 Billion over the next 4 years has been pledged to Everglades restoration and Florida’s water resources. This ups the ante from the $2.5 Billion pledged four years ago and exceeds the actual amount of funding topping out at $3.3 Billion. This money will go toward expediting projects that will restore the natural southerly flow of water into the Everglades. More importantly, the hope is that it will be used to ensure that the water flowing south is clean and free from pollution. Water flowing south benefits the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and the Indian River Lagoon by eliminating the need for polluting discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Protecting the Indian River Lagoon is a top priority. This is made clear by the promise of $100 million each year over the next four years that have been directed to aid the most biodiverse estuary in North America after years of water quality struggles. Water quality in the Indian River Lagoon has thwarted seagrass restoration efforts, and iconic marine life, such as manatees, have suffered as a result in past years. Every incremental improvement in water quality allows seagrass preservation and restoration to succeed and the Indian River Lagoon to heal.

The Executive Order specifically states support for a key focus of the Research and Restoration team at Florida Oceanographic. Our scientists have spent years studying best practices for seagrass restoration to arm themselves and partner organizations with the knowledge needed for restoration success. When the water quality improves, they will be ready to support large-scale restoration projects that will improve habitat quality and provide food for wildlife, including manatees, turtles, and numerous recreational and commercial fish species.

“Supporting innovative nature-based solutions including living shorelines, freshwater and coastal wetland restoration, and seagrass recovery utilizing strategic propagation and planting efforts.”
-Executive Order 23-06

The governor also directly named nonpoint source pollution as a threat to water quality. He has directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to “address impacts from nonpoint sources such as stormwater and agricultural runoff” and directed the South Florida Water Management District to “annually identify regional projects to improve water quality”.

Finally, a key issue that Florida Oceanographic brought to the governor’s attention last year made the list of commitments in today’s Executive Order. The flow of pollution into our waterways must be stopped at the source, and when pollution limits are exceeded, there must be accountability. Strengthening Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) and Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce pollution upstream in regional watersheds is essential in finally improving water quality, stopping harmful algal blooms, and allowing our coastlines to recover. Stopping pollution at the source will benefit the coasts and will also advance Everglades restoration, making the record funding for the Everglades go even further. Our waterways are all connected, and we must use a cohesive approach to addressing our pollution issues. We hope that this Executive Order coupled with strong legislation will succeed in making our state the Pollution Free State of Florida.