Governor Ron DeSantis today announced proposed legislation for the 2020 Legislative Session that will expedite water quality improvements throughout Florida. The legislation incorporates recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, which the Governor created shortly after taking office to aid the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in protecting, conserving and managing the state’s natural resources.
The Governor made today’s announcement following a tour of the Loxahatchee River District, where he was joined by DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein and Chief Science Officer Dr. Tom Frazier as well as other environmental stakeholders from across the state.
“The health of our state depends on the health and quality of our water,” said Governor DeSantis. “That is why I am proposing legislation to expedite the improvement of our water quality throughout Florida. These comprehensive proposals, recommended by the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, will greatly aid the Department of Environmental Protection in our mission to enhance the quality of our state’s most precious natural resource.”
Photo Credit: Governor’s Press Office
The proposed legislation furthers the directives outlined in Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 19-12 and is based on the recommendations of The Blue-Green Algae Task Force. The Blue-Green Algae Task Force, through its discussion and deliberations, provides guidance and specific, science-based recommendations with the goal of expediting improvements and restoration of Florida’s water bodies that have been adversely affected by blue-green algae blooms.
The Blue-Green Algae Task Force received input from a variety of stakeholders and identified runoff from agricultural lands, onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems, sanitary sewer overflows, and stormwater runoff as some of the significant sources of nutrient pollution and made recommendations to improve the state’s policies and programs to achieve targeted nutrient reductions and protect public health.
“Addressing nutrient impacts will require actions by all stakeholders in Florida and significant water quality changes can only occur when all stakeholders work together,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “This legislation is the foundation for implementing necessary actions by the department, local governments and our regulated community based on the Task Force’s recommendations.”
“Today was another example of leadership by Governor DeSantis,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation. “The Governor outlined a comprehensive approach to address water quality problems that have been plaguing our state and the Everglades for decades. Today’s announcement ends the era of defending the status quo and moves us into a new chapter of fixing what has been neglected. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to improve our waterways, restore the Everglades, and protect Florida’s vibrant economy.”
“We are grateful for Governor DeSantis’ continued commitment to Florida’s environment,” said Gary Jennings, Director of Keep Florida Fishing. “Keep Florida Fishing supports the Blue-Green Algae Task Force’s multi-faceted, science-based approach to improving water quality throughout the state. We look forward to working with the Governor, Legislature and relevant state agencies to address these issues and move these proposals forward. Water quality is critical for maintaining fish habitat and healthy fish populations, which are so important to Florida’s $11.5 billion sportfishing industry and more than 4 million anglers.”
DEP is expeditiously working to implement the Task Force’s recommendations, whether through the legislation announced today or through other policy changes and actions they can take immediately.
The proposed legislation does the following, based on topic:
Wastewater Infrastructure and Sanitary Sewer Overflows
- Requires utilities to develop inspection, maintenance and replacement plans for their wastewater systems, rather than allowing these systems to age and fall into despair.
- Gives DEP the authority to intervene by inspecting these systems and requiring appropriate proactive measures to upkeep wastewater facilities to better avoid future discharges.
- Ratifies recent rules adopted by DEP to ensure biosolids are only applied to land that is high enough and dry enough to prevent interaction with groundwater.
- Transfers the authority of septic tank inspection from the Department of Health (DOH) to DEP to ensure environmental harm by septic systems is accounted for.
- Requires plans for the improvement of impaired water bodies, known as Basin Management Action Plans, to include septic remediation plans
- Requires DEP to coordinate with top academic institutions to annually send the most updated research to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to ensure agricultural best management practices are grounded in the most up-to-date science.
- Requires onsite verification of best management practices for each enrolled producer at least every two years.
- Requires DACS to provide DEP and water management districts the types and amounts of nutrients BMP enrollees are tracking on agricultural products.
- Directs DEP to adopt rules to ensure that stormwater systems throughout the state reflect the most up-to-date science and contemplate environmental harm.