December 18, 2023
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the first awards through the newly established Indian River Lagoon (IRL) Protection Program, which was proposed by Governor DeSantis in Executive Order 23-06. $100 million in state funding has been provided to support 21 priority water quality projects that will reduce the amount of harmful nutrients entering the IRL and help keep our waterways pristine. Florida is the boating and fishing capital of the world, and local economies depend on these waterways attracting business to the area. Today’s awards will help ensure the health of the IRL for Floridians to enjoy for years to come.
“Florida’s prized waterways draw visitors from across the world and are the foundation of our local economies,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We are advancing our efforts to protect the Indian River Lagoon through smart investments that will continue to preserve this waterway.”
The IRL is the most biologically diverse estuary in North America and a key economic driver for the region. Since 2019, the state has awarded nearly $390 million to improve water quality in the IRL region. In May, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 1379 to ensure the state continues its momentum to protect Florida’s environment, especially in the IRL. Among other things, this legislation prioritizes the protection of the IRL by:
- Creating the IRL Protection Program;
- Requiring a comprehensive water quality monitoring program; and
- Creating new requirements and prohibitions on septic systems within the IRL watershed
“The Indian River Lagoon is one of the state’s most iconic waterways, and we are committed to meeting the challenges it faces head on,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “With the historic funding secured by Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, we are able to implement important projects to improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon.”
Selected projects will address the root causes of nutrient pollution by investing in wastewater treatment upgrades, septic-to-sewer connections, stormwater treatment and other needed restoration projects, which will reduce total nitrogen loading in region by more than 375,000 pounds per year. Excess nutrients can contribute to the increased frequency, duration and intensity of algal blooms and impact the growth of seagrass, which provide habitat and food for manatees and other species.
To further support restoration efforts, Governor DeSantis has included an additional $100 million for the IRL Protection Program in his Focus on Florida’s Future budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2024-25.
A list of all projects selected for Fiscal Year 2023-24 funding can be found here