Gov. DeSantis announces $481M in water grants, teases ‘strong’ environmental budget
Ron DeSantis. Image via Scott Powers.

Ron DeSantis at Space Florida
'I think we're going to end up far surpassing even my ambitious promises.'

Gov. Ron DeSantis and top environment officials unveiled $481 million in grants Tuesday to improve water quality and reduce nutrients in Florida waterways.

The grants, announced at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Spring Hill, cover 103 projects statewide through the Department of Environmental Protection.

The Governor told reporters water quality has been one of his top priorities.

“We appreciate the fact that from day one of our administration, we’ve really been proactive,” DeSantis said. “We’ve been on offense. We’ve been racking up a lot of key victories along the way.”

The vast majority of the spending, $394 million, is through the Wastewater Grant Program for 72 wastewater treatment improvements, including septic to sewer projects and upgrading for “advanced wastewater treatment.” That’s the follow-up to the prior $114 million in projects announced in September as part of the program, which the Governor signed into law last year.

Lawmakers this year divided dollars historically meant for affordable housing between housing and environmental spending, a decision that angered Democrats and environmental activists but created a stable funding source for both areas. That also created a stable funding source for the Wastewater Grant Program.

The Governor said the projects are expected to reduce the state’s nitrogen load by 619,000 pounds per year.

“It’s amazing what they can do as you get these improvements to do the advanced wastewater treatment, and we’ve done that,” DeSantis said.

The next tranche is $67 million for 28 projects at springs to reduce nitrogen by 70,000 pounds per year by addressing excess nutrient pollution. The remaining $20 million benefits the Small Community Wastewater Construction Grants program.

DeSantis highlighted Weeki Wachee as a historic recreational and tourist destination.

Florida’s economy runs on its waterways, the Governor said.

“You can’t find this anywhere else in the country, really,” he continued. “This is unique, we’re blessed to have it and we have a responsibility to leave it better than we found it.”

Environmental officials praised DeSantis and the administration for their focus on water quality.

DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton said the department has “reinvented the word pace.” And DEP Chief Science Officer Mark Rains lauded the Governor for laying out a “bold vision.”

“The projects that are being announced here today are exactly the kinds of projects we need,” Rains said. “They will result in demonstrable water quality benefits, and with the securing of long-term funding, we can see these not just as an endpoint, but as a new beginning.”

The Governor highlighted past funding for the Everglades he has approved, including his promise to spend $2.5 million in the region over five years. With the 2022 Session starting in less than two months, DeSantis plans to announce his budget proposal, including a “strong environment announcement,” in the coming weeks.

“I think we’re going to end up far surpassing even my ambitious promises, because a lot of people said it just couldn’t be done,” DeSantis said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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