Gov. Ron DeSantis gave a sneak peek at one of the most highly anticipated line items on the upcoming state budget recommendation on Tuesday during his visit to Southwest Florida.
DeSantis’ press team only told media that the governor was going to make a “major announcement." But, his choice of venue — the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center in Naples — kind of gave it away.
“I have a couple of announcements. One will be about appointment,” DeSantis said. “One will be about budget.”
But, both were related to water.
As you may recall, DeSantis asked the entire South Florida Water Management board to step down in his first week in office. And, now, a few weeks later, DeSantis has appointed Sanibel native Chauncey Goss to fill one of the nine open seats.
“He served in senior roles in politics, in the U.S. House and White House, and he’s got an impressive professional resume,” DeSantis said. “But, he also has a clear record of supporting and serving Florida’s natural resources.”
Goss has served on the Lee County Coastal Advisory Council and worked with the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. Right now, Goss is active with Captains for Clean Water, and he’s a city council member in Sanibel.
“We spoke about this about a year ago,” Goss said. “It was well before the election. It was well before the red tide. It was well before we lost a summer because of the blue green algae.”
What Goss and DeSantis had talked about was Florida’s water quality, which they both felt — and continue to feel — is in dire need of help.
Which brings us to the second part of the governor’s announcement.
“Okay, now, we’re going to talk about the budget,” DeSantis said. “We are having a historic $625 million for water resources projects, including Everglades restoration.”
Here are the highlights of that breakdown: the C43, C44 and EAA reservoirs are getting a collective $467 million; $150 million is going toward targeted water quality improvements, like septic conversions and nutrient pollution reduction; blue-green algae related line items are getting nearly $21 million; $1 million is going to the Department of Health to research the health impacts of algae exposure, and finally, $40 million is going toward raising Tamiami Trail to restore the southward flow of Lake Okeechobee at a rate of 900 million gallons a day.
DeSantis says this initial amount is only step one of four in his plan to reach the $2.5 billion he promised in his very first executive order.