Gov. Ron DeSantis is committing $22.7 million in additional set-asides to seven Biscayne Bay-related water quality projects in Miami-Dade County.
DeSantis’ office announced the funding Thursday at a press conference in Key Biscayne. The money comes from the Biscayne Bay Grant Program and will cover septic-to-sewer, stormwater management and wetland restoration projects in areas surrounding the bay.
Biscayne Bay is the state’s largest estuary with a direct connection to Florida’s Coral Reef — the only coral reef system in the continental United States — which stretches nearly 350 miles from the Dry Tortugas to the St. Lucie Inlet.
“Protecting our environment has been a priority since the first day I took office,” DeSantis said in a statement. “These investments to protect Biscayne Bay will improve water quality and help us preserve one of Florida’s most important natural resources for generations to come.”
The projects and funding include:
— $14.5 million for a Miami-Dade water quality characterization and pollution-reduction program.
— $2.3 million for septic-to-sewer conversions in North Miami.
— $2 million for the first phase of a Coral Gables sanitary sewer system program.
— $2 million for a Miami Springs stormwater infrastructure program.
— $700,000 for wetland restoration efforts in Cutler Bay.
— $650,000 for a stormwater infrastructure program in Key Biscayne
— $600,000 for Miami River Fund Inc., a nonprofit working with local governments on stormwater and marine debris management.
The new funding brings the DeSantis administration’s four-year investment in Biscayne Bay water quality to $52 million. It’s part of a $3.3 billion investment over the past four years in protecting natural water resources and Everglades restoration projects that is more than twice what Florida invested in the four years that preceded the Governor’s first term.
Concerns over the health of Biscayne Bay have mounted in recent years amid multiple fish kills and algal blooms. Last year, DeSantis signed legislation (HB 1177) sponsored by former Rep. Nick Duran and Sens. Bryan Ávila and Ileana Garcia creating the Biscayne Bay Commission to unite federal, state and regional entities in financing and effecting solutions to improve the bay.
“In the year since we convened the Biscayne Bay Commission, we have improved coordination among stakeholders to develop a path toward restoration of this treasured resource,” Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton said.
“The investments we are making under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis are an important step forward to improving water quality in Biscayne Bay. I look forward to continuing this momentum through our collaborative work with our local partners.”