Gov. Rick Scott was in Naples Monday to tout his eighth and final budget, one that includes $1.7 billion for environmental programs.
“This funding includes historic investments in our iconic springs, world-renowned Everglades, award-winning state parks and beautiful beaches, which is especially important following impacts by Hurricane Irma,” Scott said. “I am also proud to be recommending $100 million to preserve and protect our natural lands, including $50 million for Florida Forever. Our natural treasures are so important to Florida’s economy and tourism industry and the many families that rely on them.”
The budget, which must be approved by the state House and Senate next year, includes $355 million for Everglades restoration projects as well as $50 million for Florida’s parks.
Scott’s plan also includes a significant investment in the Caloosahatchee River reservoir, called C-43.
The project is designed to capture about 55 billion gallons of stormwater runoff from lands north and south of the river, store that water and then release it during dry conditions.
Stormwater runs off the landscape too quickly now in an unnatural process that can lead to bacteria blooms, fish and marine mammal kills and swimming beach closures.
The run-off, combined with Lake Okeechobee releases, have turned coastal waters brown since Hurricane Irma struck on Sept. 10.
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Scott is proposing $105 million for the reservoir, which, if matched by the federal government, will provide more than one-third of the money needed for the $600 million project.
“I think the C-43 reservoir is probably the biggest winner in this because that’s going to retain a lot of water in the wet season and also put the water back into the Caloosahatchee during the dry season,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida.
Eric Eikenberg, with the Everglades Foundation in Miami, praised early details on the governor’s budget as well, saying that the federal government should be ready to match money for Everglades restoration and other cost-share agreements.
“We need this same type of number out of the White House,” Eikenberg said. “And when the president begins to develop his budget – and I know there’s a good relationship between the governor’s mansion and the White House – he needs to match it. The state is going first and putting up a tremendous amount of money.”
The $1.7 billion in environmental projects and programs for the 2018-19 budget is up from $1.4 billion this year.
"We also have a lot of damage with our beaches in regard to Irma, so my budget will have $100 million for our beaches," Scott said. "We got hit last year with our beaches on the east coast and this year most of the damage with (Hurricane) Irma was on our west coast, but we still did see some damage on the east coast."
More details on Scott's budget are expected to be released in the next few weeks.
Connect with this reporter: Chad Gillis (@ChadGillisNP) on Facebook.