$100 million dedicated to Indian River Lagoon protection programs

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Photo from Indian River Lagoon NEP.
Photo from Indian River Lagoon NEP.

Florida Construction News staff writer

The newly established Indian River Lagoon (IRL) Protection Program, which was proposed by Gov. DeSantis in Executive Order 23-06. $100 million in state funding has been provided to support 21 priority water quality projects to reduce the amount of harmful nutrients entering the IRL and “help keep waterways pristine.”

“Florida’s prized waterways draw visitors from across the world and are the foundation of our local economies,” DeSantis said in a statement“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, 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, 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, the statement says.

A list of all projects selected for Fiscal Year 2023-24 funding can be found here.

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