Gov. DeSantis highlights environmental achievements at Rookery Bay visit

Karl Schneider
Naples Daily News

Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on Tuesday morning about “robust” state support of Everglades restoration, environmental protection and water resources.

Fresh into office, DeSantis had announced $2.5 billion over his four-year term to support Everglades restoration and clean water in the state.

"Well, I'm proud to be able to report not only are we on target to meet that, we're on target to far surpass that,” the governor said Tuesday. “Not only are we going to have $2.5 billion over these four years, once the next budget goes in, we may even get $3 billion for that. And so that will be double what had been done for us four years before I took office.”

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Universal Studios Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. On Friday, June 12, DeSantis signed a bill that will allow college athletes in Florida to profit off their name, image and likeness.

This year, he said, $660 million has gone toward Everglades restoration and another $300 million for water resource protection.

Funding has also gone to spring restoration, Burmese python removal programs, harmful algal bloom mitigation and alternative water supply grant programs, he said.

“I'm pleased to say with our recommendations, and as we work with the Legislature and next year's legislative session, we will not only have kept the promises and met the standards that we set, we will have exceeded what we promised to do,” he said.

Resilient Florida grant program is getting off the ground

Shawn Hamilton, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, also spoke Tuesday, supporting the governor’s efforts and the Resilient Florida grant program just getting off the ground.

“We received over 581 applications for $2.3 billion in projects,” Hamilton said of the grant program. “As you can see the task is large, but it’s this type of funding and participation that makes that manageable and something within vision and within reach.”

Hamilton said the grants will help the state work with local communities to prepare for the effects of climate change including sea-level rise, intensifying storms and inland flooding.

Daniel Andrews, with Captains for Clean Water, said the money the governor has spent on Everglades restoration has been historic.

“Not only is it a record, but it's also directed exactly where it's needed,” Daniels said. “We're going and putting this money toward projects that really give us the highest (return on investment) that are going to stop the discharges and get more water flowing south (from Lake Okeechobee) and that's really incredible.”

By the way:One of the largest mangrove restoration projects in Florida breaks ground near Marco Island

A Mangrove photographed, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, on San Marco Road between Goodland and the City of Marco near Marco Island, Fla.

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is undergoing a mangrove restoration project near Marco Island.

DeSantis said that while the state does not control lake management or discharges, it has been able to build infrastructure to mitigate flows into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.

“I think the results have been good so far, but we've got to keep going,” DeSantis said. “We’re not at the finish line yet, but we've got great momentum, and it's really exciting to see so many people come together to support these great initiatives.”

Karl Schneider is an environment reporter. You can reach him at kschneider@gannett.com. Follow on Twitter @karlstartswithk.