Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis held events in Fort Myers and Stuart to announce the launch of ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov, the state’s first-ever comprehensive water quality dashboard. The Governor and First Lady were joined by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein, State Surgeon General Dr. Scott A. Rivkees, Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazer, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Executive Director Eric Sutton, Congressman Brian Mast and other environmental stakeholders.
The dashboard, which can be accessed at ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov, provides real-time information on water restoration projects and water quality via an interactive state map.
“Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida,” said Governor DeSantis. “That’s why it is vitally important that we keep Floridians informed of our current initiatives and the quality of our water at the state level. I’ve made this issue a priority, and I am thankful to have committed partners such as the First Lady, our state agency leaders and environmental stakeholders. We are all in this together, and this dashboard is a great step in moving our state toward more innovative, comprehensive ways to keel Floridians informed and involved.”
“I am proud to join the Governor in continuing efforts to make water quality in Florida a clear priority, as well as the accountability and transparency of those efforts,” said First Lady DeSantis. “This inter-agency effort combines the good work of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health, and Fish and Wildlife Commission to better ensure our residents and visitors can appreciate and enjoy our beautiful resources. Nothing is more important than keeping the public informed about water quality issues that affect our communities and public health. Water is the lifeblood of our state, and this website brings environmental leaders, residents and visitors together to be a part of protecting and restoring Florida’s waterways.”
Photo Credit: Governor’s Press Office
The initial version of the Protecting Florida Together water quality status map focuses on blue-green algae, red tide and nutrient concentrations in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and their respective estuaries, and Lake Okeechobee. Additional features will include an expanded statewide map to be added over the next year.
“The Department of Environmental Protection is proud to be part of this collaborative inter-agency effort,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “Harmful algal blooms have had a devastating effect on Florida’s communities in recent years. We understand that and are making every effort to expedite water quality improvements for the benefit of all Floridians and visitors to our state. This site is a demonstration of our commitment to better communication, transparency and accountability in the way water quality information and the state’s actions are provided to the public.”
“Harmful algal blooms can pose a significant threat to public health and awareness is key to protecting Florida’s residents and visitors,” said State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees. “The Florida Department of Health is proud to play a role in this effort to provide the most real-time information available from each of our departments in one intuitive dashboard. With the launch of this online resource, we will be able to better raise awareness and inform on this important issue. I want to thank Governor DeSantis, First Lady DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez for their bold vision and leadership, without which this joint-effort would not have been possible.”
“Under Governor DeSantis’s leadership, this is a great step forward toward ensuring that we not allow anything into our water that we would not allow in a bathtub with our own children,” said Congressman Brian Mast.
“I am grateful that our Governor and First Lady recognize the power of information and the link between our environment and our health,” said Representative Toby Overdorf. “This new tool will aid all Floridians affected by blue-green algae and red tide.”
“From their first days in office, Governor and First Lady DeSantis have championed improvements to Florida’s water quality while engaging Floridians in these important issues,”said Drew Bartlett, Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District.“With the Governor’s leadership and funding from DEP, the South Florida Water Management District has been able to expand its monitoring network. In partnership with DEP, we have added 80 new monitoring sites and doubled the analyses for our northern watersheds. We‘re grateful for the Governor’s initiative and DEP’s efforts to make data from our expanded monitoring network easily accessible to the public.”
Additionally, information about the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency, the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, and Red Tide Task Force will be available.
“Governor DeSantis committed to accountability and transparency in his Executive Order and the Blue-Green Algae Task Force reinforced the need for clear, consistent and coordinated communication about blue-green algae and its impacts on the environment and human health,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazer. “This dashboard represents an important step in meeting the Governor’s commitment and informing the public about the quality of their water.”
“We know that addressing water quality requires a team effort,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. “We are proud to be included in this priority initiative. Combining our resources will create efficiencies and strengthen our response, so that we can support healthy habitats for fish and wildlife while providing viable recreational and economic opportunities for Florida’s residents and visitors.”
“The Florida Oceanographic Society applauds the Governor and First Lady for making water quality a priority in our state,” said Mark Perry, Executive Director, Florida Oceanographic Society. “Now is the perfect time to get involved and for the public to be engaged in the solution to our water issues.”
“This dashboard provides information that is critically important to the public,” said Dr. James Sullivan, Executive Director of FAU’s Harbor Branch. “We need more agency collaboration and I have been wanting a one-stop shop for water quality information. The Governor and First Lady really delivered with this new website.”
Residents looking for ways to help protect Florida’s waters can find tips and resources on ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov and can visit Volunteer Florida’s VolunteerConnect website to find volunteer opportunities.