DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein Highlights Governor DeSantis’ Continued Historic Environmental Achievements in 2020

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CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112,

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein Highlights Governor DeSantis’ Continued Historic Environmental Achievements in 2020   

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – From the day he took office, Governor Ron DeSantis made it clear that achieving more for Florida’s environment would be a top priority. Since that time, an environmental movement has taken shape in Florida resulting in unprecedented protections of our water, air and land. During 2020, under Governor DeSantis' leadership and with the support of the Florida Legislature, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has taken aggressive steps to effectively address environmental issues at the source, while also responding to COVID-19. 

"2020 has arguably been one of the most challenging years on record, and I am proud of the dedication and perseverance of DEP in protecting, conserving and managing Florida’s natural resources," Governor Ron DeSantis said. "When I took office two years ago, I laid out a plan addressing the protection of Florida's environmentand despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not skipped a beat. From increased enforcement, to securing critical land acquisitions, to expanding our state’s water monitoring networks, Floridians can rest assured knowing we continue  to prioritize the environmental and economic well-being of our great state.  

"Thanks to the strong leadership of Governor DeSantis in 2020, DEP and our partners have expedited critical Everglades restoration projectsemployed sound science to protect and restore our waterwaysfunded infrastructure projects to improve our state’s coastal resiliency, acquired lands through Florida Forever tsafeguard Florida’s critical water supply and provided resource-based recreation to residents and visitors at a time when we needed it most," DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said"These accomplishments are just a few of the efforts our agency pursues every day. We take pride in our agency’s quick response to communities and public lands in the wake of damaging storms and in our long-term environmental programs to meet the needs of our unique and diverse state."  



Over $625 Million in Funding for Statewide Water Protection

~ Governor Secures Over $625 Million in Funding for Everglades Restoration and Statewide Water Quality Protections ~

As called for in the Governor’s Executive Order 19-12 and the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-2021 Bolder, Brighter, Better Future Budget provides more than $625 million in funding for targeted water quality improvements for springs and Everglades restoration, infrastructure improvements and investments in science based technologies to support the overarching goal of water quality protection statewide. 

With this funding, the state continues to take action every day to protect vital water resources. 

This provides: 

  • More than $318 million for Everglades restoration and the EAA Reservoir project. 
  • $50 million for Lake Okeechobee watershed restoration project.
  • $50 million for springs restoration.  
  • $50 million for Targeted Water Quality and Total Maximum Daily Load projects.  
  • $40 million for alternative water supply projects. 
  • $25 million for Indian River Lagoon restoration projects. 
  • $25 million for projects within the St. Johns River, Suwannee River, Springs Coast and Apalachicola River watersheds.  
  • $10.8 million to address and protect water bodies from the risk of blue-green algal blooms.
  • $10 million for innovative technology.
  • $10 million for coral reef protection and restoration.  

The remainder of the $625 million is appropriated for other water quality and water conservation projects. 

Everglades Restoration

~ Funding Will Expedite Critical Everglades Restoration Projects, Including C-43, C-44 and EAA Reservoirs ~

Through this unprecedented funding for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources, and the expedited efforts of DEP and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the state continues to take action to protect vital water resources statewide.

Secured this year, the 2020-21 Bolder, Brighter, Better Future Budget provides over $318 million to restore the Everglades and reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries. Specifically, this funding goes to: 

  • EAA Reservoir project and other projects to send more water south.
  • Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.
  • Wetland improvements to naturally clean water through restoration strategies.
  • Caloosahatchee (C-43) Reservoir.
  • C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area.
  • Dispersed water storage.

Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, the state of Florida has strengthened its partnership with the federal government.

  • Federal funding for Everglades restoration is poised to set record levels in back-to-back years with $235 million appropriated in 2020 and $250 million requested in the President’s 2021 budget.
  • Combined with $625 million in state funding annually and full federal funding of the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike, the total funding for Everglades restoration and water quality investments across Florida is rapidly approaching $1 billion per year. 

As a result of these collective efforts, Florida is expediting all 27 Everglades restoration projects prioritized by DEP and the SFWMD. By 2022, as a result of positive changes under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida will have completed or broken ground on 15 of the most critical Everglades restoration projects that reduce harmful discharges and send more water south.

Key milestones during 2020 include:

  • In October 2020, Governor DeSantis joined DEP, SFWMD, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other state and federal officials to celebrate the completion of the S-333 North (S-333N) structure. The S-333N structure, adjacent to the existing S-333 water control structure west of Miami, doubles the amount of water that can be moved south through the area, out of the Central Everglades and into Everglades National Park. The S-333N structure will work together with other critical Everglades restoration projects, including the EAA Reservoir Project, to decrease harmful estuary discharges and deliver more water south. 
  • In September 2020, the SFWMD celebrated the completion of another Everglades project the Brighton Valley Dispersed Water Management Project in Highlands County. This project will improve regional water quality and support the health of the Northern Everglades by providing important water storage and treatment north of Lake Okeechobee. 
  • In August 2020, the SFWMD reached another milestone in the ongoing effort to expedite the EAA Reservoir Project. Blasting began on the project site for the canals needed to deliver water into the 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area component of the project. This important Everglades restoration project reduces harmful discharges to the northern estuaries from Lake Okeechobee and sends more clean water south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
  • In October 2019, DEP issued a permit to the Department of Interior’s National Park Service's Everglades National Park, for the removal of 5.45 miles of the Old Tamiami Trail, just south of the existing Tamiami Trail. This year, construction began to remove the old roadbed and bury power lines to allow water to naturally sheetflow south into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. Most of the roadbed removal has been completed.
  • In June 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that full funding has been secured to complete the project to elevate the Tamiami Trail. During 2020, the design work was completed and the construction contract has been awarded.

Additionally, in January 2020, Governor DeSantis announced the Agreement for Acquisition of 20,000 acres of critical Everglades wetlands, which is the largest wetland acquisition in a decade and will permanently save the land from oil drilling. The Kanter property is in the heart of the Everglades in WCA 3, which is part of the Everglades Protection Area – one of the most important wetland systems in the Everglades. With this acquisition, there would be nearly 600,000 acres of wetlands in WCA 3 that would be permanently protected in public ownership for restoration and recreation. 

Chief Science Officer, Blue-Green Algae Task Force and Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency

Continued Commitment to Science-Based Solutions and Increased Accountability and Transparency ~

In 2020, DEP hosted the seventh and eighth meetings of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force on July 29, 2020, and Nov. 19, 2020, respectively. The task force builds on the success of its efforts in 2019 and will continue to develop detailed recommendations to protect Florida’s water quality through science-based, transparent initiatives. 

"Science-based decision-making is a hallmark of effective environmental policy," Chief Science Officer Dr. Tom Frazer said. "It is reassuring to know that science has figured prominently in Governor DeSantis' efforts to protect, conserve and restore degraded ecosystems." 

The Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency (OEAT), in coordination
with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of
Health, developed signage to educate the public about blue-green algal blooms. The
signage, which was displayed and discussed at the Blue-Green Algae Task Force
meetings, helps increase public awareness of blue-green algae, provides information
on what to do when blooms are present, and explains how to get up-to-date information on blue-green algae blooms and other water quality issues through

The Protecting Florida Together website is an online resource developed by DEP that allows the public to access the state’s first-ever comprehensive water quality dashboard that encompasses multi-agency water quality data and initiatives. This platform provides users access to water quality data and nutrient information, including active projects and the status of water quality in Florida communities.

Additionally, OEAT completed development of a preference center that allows
Floridians to sign up for blue-green algae and red tide email notifications, as well as an
education center. This site is in the final testing phase of production and being finalized
to go live.

Landmark Legislation

~ Governor DeSantis Champions and Secures the Unanimous Passage of Historic Water-Quality Legislation ~

Senate Bill 712

After unanimous passage of the Clean Waterways Act through the Florida Legislature, Governor DeSantis signed this act into law in June 2020. This historic legislation, which is based on the scientific recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, contains a wide range of water quality protection provisions aimed at minimizing the impacts of nutrient pollution. 

The implementation of this statute is a multi-faceted and comprehensive process that encompasses multiple state agencies and DEP's program areas. DEP is actively working to implement these initiatives to ensure long-term successincluding holding public meetings to update its stormwater and biosolids rules, as well as working with the Florida Department of Health to transfer the septic tank permitting program to DEP. 

A few historic aspects of this legislation include:

  • Regulation of septic tanks as a source of nutrients and transfer of oversight from the Florida Department of Health to DEP. 
  • Contingency plans for power outages to minimize discharges of untreated wastewater for all sewage disposal facilities. 
  • Provision of financial records from all sanitary sewage disposal facilities so that DEP can ensure funds are being allocated to infrastructure upgrades, repairs, and maintenance that prevent systems from falling into states of disrepair. 
  • Detailed documentation of fertilizer use by agricultural operations to ensure compliance with best management practices and aid in evaluation of their effectiveness. 
  • Updated stormwater rules and design criteria to improve the performance of stormwater systems statewide to specifically address nutrients. 

House Bill 1091

House Bill 1091, which also passed the Florida Legislature unanimously, was signed into law June 2020. This legislation increases penalties for sanitary sewer overflows by 100% and all other environmental penalties by 50%. 

The department is actively implementing the increased penalty provisions of HB 1091 through its enforcement actions. 

Environmental Crimes Unit

Outside of this legislation, the department has been laser-focused on
environmental enforcement since the Governor directed the transfer of the
Environmental Crimes Unit back to DEP from FWC in 2019. Environmental Crimes
Unit’s special agents, lieutenants and captains are fully constituted state of Florida law
enforcement officers. The special agents are responsible for the investigation of
environmental crimes and natural resource violations. Special agents also respond to
natural or human disasters, civil disturbances and issues regarding public safety.

Since January 2020, the unit has issued 27 felonies, 127 misdemeanors and 416
warnings for environmental violations. This was also accomplished during the COVID-
19 pandemic when law enforcement officers were on special assignments at Florida
State Parks to ensure safety of staff and visitors.


~ Over 20 Projects Comprising a $50 Million Investment Identified to Further Protect Florida’s Springs ~ 

Springs are the window into the health of our groundwater, which is the source of 90%
of drinking water for Floridians. Some springs support entire ecosystems with unique plants and animals. Florida’s springs face various complex threats, including decreasing spring flows and excessive nutrients.

DEP, in conjunction with the state’s water management districts, has identified $50
million in statewide springs restoration projects to further protect Florida’s springs. DEP
is also implementing additional protection efforts, including increased monitoring,
enforcement and measures to ensure compliance with best management practices to
restore and protect water quality in springs statewide.

Many of the projects will benefit ongoing restoration efforts in springsheds. These
restoration efforts reflect a collaborative effort among the department, water management districts, community leaders and local stakeholders. Combining efforts and resources from various agencies across Florida allows for more efficient and comprehensive water restoration.



2020 Marks Florida’s Designation as the Most Populous State in the United States to Meet All Stringent Federal Air Standards

~ DEP announces Florida Meets all of the NAAQS Statewide ~ 

In March 2020, DEP announced that Florida met all of the National Ambient Air Quality
Standards (NAAQS) statewide. This is the culmination of several years of collaborative
efforts among DEP, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry to reduce emissions and improve air quality for Floridans. These efforts have not only resulted in Florida having the cleanest air on record, but to its being the most populous state in the U.S. to meet these stringent federal standards. The work that DEP along with EPA has done with industry members in Hillsborough, Nassau and Polk counties has resulted in improved air quality, which better protects public health and the quality of life of our residents and visitors.

Volkswagen Settlement

~ Florida Dedicates Millions to Expand Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure, Procure Electric School Buses and Fund Diesel Emission Reduction Act Projects Statewide ~  

Under the Volkswagen Settlement, Florida was allotted $166 million to improve air
quality. Florida’s Beneficiary Mitigation Plan, which was finalized October 2019, outlines how the state intends to spend the full award under this settlement. This plan focuses on the construction of new electric vehicle charging stations, the procurement of electric buses for select school districts and transit agencies and funding Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) projects.

In July 2020, Governor DeSantis announced the first steps under this plan to
strengthen Florida’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure (EVCI). With an investment
of approximately $9 million, this will support the state’s efforts to provide accessible
electric vehicle infrastructure while also improving air quality and expanding the state’s
charging stations by 50% along the most traveled corridors.

DEP reviewed the applications received for the electric vehicle charging stations and
selected 27 of the projects to receive the awarded funding. With this funding, 74
additional DC fast chargers will be installed statewide. Combined with the chargers
FDOT is installing along the Florida Turnpike, a total of 104 DC fast chargers will be
installed along over 1,200 miles of highway, covering the most traveled corridors in the
state. Each of the 34 locations will have at minimum two chargers each. This represents an approximately 50% statewide increase in publicly available DC charging stations. As of November 2020, all of the 27 segment winners have signed agreements with DEP to move these projects forward.

In November, the department also announced the launch of EVCI Phase II, which will
obligate the remaining $15.9 million to cover Interstate 10 and add additional charging
stations on the Phase I corridors. This is expected to add at least 32 new charging
stations in addition to the 27 funded under EVCI Phase I.

Also in November, the department published a new Notice of Funding Availability for
allocation of $57 million in funds to purchase electric school buses for school districts
within air quality priority areas, as specified in Florida’s Beneficiary Mitigation
Plan. This program will buy the first electric school buses in Florida.

The Diesel Emission Reduction Act Program funds projects that improve air quality by
reducing harmful emissions from diesel engines. The Key West Express, a catamaran
service operating from Fort Myers Beach and Marco Island, received $800,000 of
federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act funding and $1 million of Volkswagen trust
funding toward the cost to replace four marine diesel engines on one of its two vessels
that transports over 500,000 visitors to and from Key West annually. The change to
low-emission engines will substantially reduce the emission of air pollutants, including
approximately 115 tons of nitrogen oxides annually and a 70% reduction in particulate



Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) and Coastal Resiliency

~ DEP Secretary Appointed as Acting CRO; Continues to Champion Florida’s Resilience ~   

In 2019, the Governor established the vision of developing resilience goals for the state to help protect Florida’s coastal communities and fortify its path to continued
sustainability and prosperity. To establish these goals, the Governor appointed a Chief
Resilience Officer (CRO) with the direction to coordinate a statewide response to better
prepare for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of climate change.

The CRO began this task by identifying the changing impacts of water on the state
as its most immediate and pressing resilience issue. The CRO’s 2019 Annual Report
specifically highlighted the changing impacts of sea level rise and storm events
on our coastline, as well as recurrent flooding throughout the state.

In 2020, the Governor appointed Secretary Valenstein as the acting CRO to fulfill this
important role through continued coordination and advocating for resilience planning by
Florida’s local, regional and state entities. Additionally, Secretary Valenstein and DEP
initiated the necessary steps to implement Senate Bill 178, regarding public financing of construction projects within Florida’s coastal zone, to protect communities from the
effects of sea level rise. This law will require any public entity that commissions or manages a construction project within the coastal building zone, using funds appropriated from the state, to conduct a sea level impact projection (SLIP) study prior to commencing construction.

In implementing this law, DEP will be establishing, by rule, for the first time on a
statewide level, standards for the SLIP study, including sea level rise projections,
increased storm risk and the chance of substantial flood damage over the life of the
structure and will also provide ways to mitigate and adapt to those risks. DEP has
started work to develop a web-based tool that will not only serve to help entities subject
to the requirement to conduct a SLIP study but also serve as an educational tool for the public to help Florida become more resilient. DEP has engaged stakeholder groups for input on implementation of this new law and initiated formal rulemaking that will
continue into and be finalized in 2021.

Florida State Parks

~ Florida State Parks Emphasize Improvement Efforts During COVID-19 Closures ~

All Florida State Parks that were temporarily closed as a result of COVID-19 have
reopened in a thoughtful, measured way to provide visitors with resource-based
recreational opportunities. During the temporary closure, Florida’s state parks were
able to focus their efforts on other important tasks, including:

  • Expanding efforts to enhance natural ecosystems by treating land with
    prescribed fire and with invasive and exotic plant removal and treatment.
  • Completing construction projects to improve visitor access to park amenities
    and facilities.
  • Adjusting park management procedures to incorporate public health and safety protocols in preparation for reopening.   

Additionally, during 2020, DEP’s Florida State Parks completed:  

  • Over 900 construction and maintenance projects. 
  • Approximately 45,989 acres of prescribed fire treatment.   
  • Approximately 7,619 acres of invasive/exotics removal.    

Land Management and Land Acquisition

Florida Conserves More Than 48,000 Acres of Land in 2020 Through Florida Forever Land Acquisition Program ~

Florida Forever is Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition
program, a blueprint for conserving natural resources and the state’s natural and
cultural heritage.

Florida Forever encompasses a wide range of goals, including water resource
development and supply, increased public access, public lands management and maintenance, and increased protection of land by acquisition of conservation

During 2020, DEP’s Division of State Lands closed on 74 parcels within 19 Florida
Forever parcels totaling more than 48,000 acres.

In 2020, the team also brought 30 items to the Governor and Cabinet sitting as the
Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, which included:

  • Fifteen parcels within 11 Florida Forever projects, protecting over 42,000 acres of land through acquisition and conservation easements. 
  • Stan Mayfield Working Waterfronts 2020 Project Ranking list, which includes $3.1 million in grant funding for land acquisition that supports Florida’s seafood harvesting and aquaculture industries.
  • The 2020 Florida Forever Priority List, which includes 125 projects.
  • The division’s Fiscal Year 2020-21 Annual Florida Forever Work Plan, which includes 65 projects.

Looking Forward Into 2021

"These accomplishments are just a few of the efforts our agency pursues every day. We take pride in our agency’s momentum to protect our resources as we contribute to a broad range of environmental protections that meet the needs of a unique and diverse state.

"As we look into the next year, our strides will not slow down. Leading DEP through these accomplishments has been historic, and I am truly humbled to be part of a team relentlessly dedicated to Florida's environment. Thank you, Governor DeSantis, for your clear pursuit of protecting Florida now and for the future." 

- DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein