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Gov. DeSantis Sees Clean-Water Momentum — Wants More

During an appearance in Bonita Springs, Gov. Ron DeSantis told clean-water advocates to keep pressing the Fla. Legislature to pass conservation measures in 2020.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – During an appearance in Bonita Springs Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis encouraged clean-water advocates to keep pressing lawmakers to pass conservation measures in the upcoming 2020 legislative session.

DeSantis, noting that legislators exceeded his environmental funding request of $625 million by $55 million this year, said local voices are needed to maintain the “momentum” on the effort to clean up and protect the state’s waterways.

“Just keep talking about it and keep letting your legislators know that you appreciated the work of last session – but you’d like to see momentum continue,” DeSantis said during his appearance at the Save Our Water Summit. “I think we probably have a lot of momentum now. But I think that will add to the momentum, and I think it’s just going to be like, going forward, this is something that pretty much most people are going to agree needs to continue.”

Lawmakers return to Tallahassee for committee meetings next month in advance of the legislative session that starts in January.

DeSantis said the state needs to be “good stewards” of the land and water because environmental issues surpass local concerns. He pointed to the broad impact of last year’s outbreaks of blue-green algae and red tide as an example.

“I think it affected our economic vitality,” he said about the algae problems. “It affected the image of our state. When people see something like what we saw last summer, it’s not just that they may not want to come to southwest Florida … A lot of them don’t know where in Florida that is.”

Prior to the 2019 session, DeSantis said his funding request for water protection and restoration projects – including efforts to combat red tide and blue-green algae, as well as the continued cleanup of the Everglades – was the first of a four-year, $2.5 billion proposal. DeSantis’ multi-year plan is a $1 billion increase from what was spent the prior four years under his predecessor, former Gov. Rick Scott, who is now a U.S. senator.

Since taking office in January, DeSantis established a Blue Green Algae Task Force to consider ways to reduce harmful nutrients in state waters, revived a task force focused on red tide outbreaks along the Gulf Coast and named the state’s first chief science officer. DeSantis also overturned leadership at the South Florida Water Management District after the board drew his ire by voting to grant a lease extension to Florida Crystals for land eyed by the Florida Legislature for the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir.

Environmentalists haven’t been completely won over by DeSantis, however.

The Republican governor drew scathing reviews for approving a bill that begins a process to expand toll roads through mostly rural sections of Florida. But environmentalists were on his side when DeSantis vetoed a measure that would have blocked local governments from banning plastic straws.

In his remarks Wednesday, DeSantis recalled when, as a member of Congress, he felt that constituents had a bigger impact than special interest groups.

The governor said his efforts this year were helped by broad support from people in communities impacted by bad water conditions, from homeowners to those involved in the fishing, boating and tourism industries.

“When you’re just hearing from people that you might see in a bank or post office or wherever, and they’re concerned about something and you’re a legislator, that really has an impact,” DeSantis said.

Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Turner