DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton Highlights Continued Historic Environmental Achievements in 2022

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DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton Highlights Continued Historic Environmental Achievements in 2022

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – During the past four years, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made historic investments to protect our environmental resources. Through Executive Order 19-12, Governor DeSantis laid out a comprehensive strategy for environmental protection and secured unprecedented levels of legislative budget support.

“With 2022 coming to a close, it is a great time to reflect on the important work and successes we have had over the past year as a result of the leadership of Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, as well as the hard work of the agency’s knowledgeable and dedicated staff and our many partners,” said said DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “As we embark on our work under the Governor’s second term, we have significant resources to take action to improve our state's coastal resilience, expedite critical Everglades restoration projects, protect our waterways, acquire lands to protect Florida's natural resources and provide resource-based recreation to residents and visitors. I look forward to the year ahead as we continue our momentum and advance the agency’s mission to achieve more now for Florida’s environment and our communities.”

A few of the most significant environmental accomplishments of 2022 are shared below.



Governor Has Secured Over $3.3 Billion in Funding for Everglades Restoration and Protection of Water Resources Since Fiscal Year 2019-20

  • The Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget includes more than $1.2 billion for Everglades restoration and the protection of water resources. This includes but is not limited to:
    • More than $500 million for Everglades restoration projects.
    • $125 million for the wastewater grant program for projects to construct, upgrade or expand wastewater facilities, to provide advanced water treatment, and to convert from septic to sewer.
    • $50 million in alternative water supply funding for 33 projects stretching from the Panhandle to Palm Beach, which, once fully online, will create more than 36 million gallons of potable water each day. 
    • Nearly $31 million to combat harmful algal blooms and red tide, including funding for innovative technology projects to support water quality improvements throughout the state. 
    • More than $22 million to support seven priority water quality and nutrient reduction projects in Biscayne Bay through the Biscayne Bay Water Quality Improvement Grant Program.
  • The FY 2022-23 budget brings the four-year total for Everglades and water quality protection funding to more than $3.3 billion, surpassing the goal of $2.5 billion and more than doubling the investment made in the previous four years.
    • As a result of this unprecedented investment, more than 50 Everglades restoration projects have broken ground, achieved a major milestone or finished construction since 2019.
    • As a result of these projects, record water volumes are being sent south thanks to the operations of infrastructure to hydrate the Everglades, resulting in Florida Bay reaching salinity goals for the first time in decades.
    • We have also significantly reduced harmful discharges and are sending more clean water south to Everglades National Park than ever before.
  • Recent Everglades restoration successes include:
    • Completion of the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area, which will make a significant impact in reducing nutrient pollution in the St. Lucie Estuary.
    • Completion of the Old Tamiami Trail Road Removal project six months ahead of schedule, which will allow water to naturally sheetflow south into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
    • Continued work to expedite the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project.
    • Completion of the first phase of the 8.5 Square Mile Area Seepage Wall project, which will prevent water from seeping out of Everglades National Park and into the nearby Las Palmas Community.
  • During the December Special Session, $100 million was also appropriated for the new Hurricane Stormwater and Wastewater Grant Program to repair damage to wastewater and stormwater infrastructure from hurricanes Ian and Nicole to protect public health and the environment.


DEP Strengthens Florida’s Resiliency Efforts

More than $1.1 billion has been directed to enhancing the resilience of natural and built infrastructure across Florida since 2019. The FY 2022-23 budget includes $270 million to fund the entire Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan for the first three years. In total, 76 projects are funded.

  • In early 2022, DEP announced the award of more than $404 million for 113 environmental resilience projects across the state to help prepare coastal and inland communities for the impacts of flooding and sea level rise. In addition, $20 million was awarded for 98 projects for community resilience planning, such as developing or updating comprehensive vulnerability assessments for statutory compliance.
  • Governor DeSantis signed into law House Bill 7053, creating the Statewide Office of Resilience within the Governor’s Office to be led by the state’s Chief Resilience Officer. This measure expands the 2021 Resilient Florida Legislation contained in House Bill 1954 by providing more guidance for the Resilient Florida Grant Program; expanding vulnerability assessments to include enhanced rainfall analysis; providing new reporting requirements for accountability and transparency; and expanding eligible grant recipients to special districts authorized in statute. The bill also introduces the framework for the Florida Department of Transportation to complete resilience planning efforts for Florida’s Highway System.
  • DEP awarded $8 million from the FY 2022-23 budget to support 31 coral projects, including monitoring and support of stony coral tissue loss disease response, restoration of Florida’s Coral Reef and the enhancement of regional water quality with a focus on Biscayne Bay.
  • In the past four years, the state has invested $200 million in beach nourishment and inlet management to continue addressing Florida’s critically eroded shorelines, including $50 million in the FY 2022-23 budget.
    • Additionally, during the December Special Session, $150 million was appropriated for beach nourishment and shoreline fortification for communities impacted by hurricanes Ian and Nicole, including $50 million for the new Hurricane Restoration Reimbursement Grant Program to assist homeowners with fortifying their homes. $100 million was also appropriated to repair damage to wastewater and stormwater infrastructure to protect public health and the environment.
    • DEP is also providing $20 million for emergency sand placement to help local governments address the significant dune and beach erosion caused by hurricanes Ian and Nicole. Based on their readiness to proceed with emergency sand placement, Flagler and Volusia counties received the first grant awards for $5 million each. 


Chief Science Officer Continues Commitment to Science-Based Solutions
and Increase
d Accountability and Transparency

  • On March 30, 2021, Governor DeSantis announced the appointment of Dr. Mark Rains as the state of Florida’s Chief Science Officer.
  • Dr. Rains has worked to secure funding to support new and innovative monitoring efforts. These efforts include a combination of strategies such as new monitoring stations, an increase in parameters sampled at existing stations and increased sampling frequency at existing stations. In the Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee watersheds, water quality and algal bloom monitoring has been expanded at approximately 170 existing stations and 100 new monitoring stations, including biweekly algal bloom sampling from May through October.
  • Dr. Rains and DEP's Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency (OEAT) have also worked hard to secure funding to support studies that will improve our understanding of harmful algal blooms (HABs), so that we may be able to reduce the frequency and severity of HABs and enhance our efforts to predict and respond when they occur.
  • In addition, Dr. Rains and OEAT are leading a cutting-edge data analytics initiative, which will increase our ability to harness the power of the department’s ever-growing data streams to support agency needs and decision making and inform the public.


DEP Funds Projects to Further Protect Florida’s Springs

  • Florida is home to more large (first- and second-magnitude) springs than any other state in the nation. Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state has made an unprecedented financial commitment, dedicating $275 million over the last four years specifically for springs restoration. This record funding has enabled the department to assist local governments and other stakeholders in identifying and constructing projects that are imperative for achieving restoration goals.
  • In 2022, $75 million in state grant funding was awarded for 30 projects, including continued support for 13 legacy projects and 12 new projects. These initiatives are primarily focused on wastewater treatment improvements, including septic-to-sewer projects and land acquisition/conservation easements.



Florida Continues its Record as a National Leader in Conservation through the Florida Forever Program

  • Over the last four years, Florida has committed more than $600 million to the Florida Forever Program – over five times the investment during the previous four years. During this same period, Florida has acquired over 170,000 acres for conservation – nearly four times what was acquired in the previous four years. This includes more than 166,000 acres within the Wildlife Corridor.
  • In 2021, Governor DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 976, creating the Wildlife Corridor Act to encourage and promote investments in areas that protect and enhance the Florida Wildlife Corridor to protect our natural resources and wildlife.
  • So far, in 2022, 34,618 acres of conservation land have been acquired through the Florida Forever program. Approximately 98% of these acres are within the Wildlife Corridor.
12.19.22 January 2019 to December 2022 CYs Florida Forever Total Map


Florida State Parks Welcome Nearly 32 Million Visitors in 2022

  • With more than 32 million visitors and nearly $85 million in revenue, Florida’s state parks set a record for attendance and revenue in FY 2021-22.
  • So far, in FY 2022-23, more than 11.2 million people have visited state parks, generating nearly $28 million in revenue.
  • DEP opened two new properties in the Florida Panhandle that expand public recreational opportunities: William J. “Billy Joe” Rish Recreation Area in Port St Joe and the Bluffs of St. Teresa in Panacea.
  • The agency designated Torreya State Park in Bristol as a state geological site. DEP's Florida Geological Survey determined the site to be significant to scientific study and the public’s understanding of Florida’s geological history.
  • DEP launched the Real Florida Reader program over the summer in partnership with the Florida Department of State’s Division of State Library and Information Services. The program enabled library patrons in more than 300 locations statewide to check out a Real Florida Reader pass from their local public library for free day-use admission to one of more than 170 participating state parks.
  • DEP partnered with the Florida Prepaid College Savings Program to award 10 Florida children a one-year Florida college scholarship valued at approximately $7,000. Twenty-five runners-up were also selected to receive a Florida State Parks gift pack. The promotion was used to encourage youth to learn about Florida’s environment through the Florida State Parks Junior Ranger Program. 



DEP Progresses in Implementation of the Clean Waterways Act

  • Florida's Clean Waterways Act is landmark legislation that carries a wide range of water quality protection provisions aimed at minimizing the impact of known sources of nutrient pollution, realigning the state’s resources to enhance protection of the environment and strengthen regulatory requirements. It focuses on remedial action and improvements to regulations regarding septic and stormwater systems and wastewater infrastructure, as well as agricultural best management practices.
  • Multiple DEP program areas, along with those of other state agencies, are undertaking a multifaceted and comprehensive approach to implement the requirements of the act. This effort included a suite of rulemaking actions in 2022 to strengthen environmental regulations that will hold permittees accountable and reduce nutrient inputs into the state’s waterways, including: 
    • Adopting collection systems rules to improve domestic wastewater collection and transmission requirements and strengthen reporting of noncompliance. 
    • Adopting onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems (OSTDS) rules to ensure that septic systems are permitted in a way that prevents contamination and protects both human health and the state’s waterbodies. 
    • Stormwater rulemaking is currently underway to identify design and operation options to increase the removal of nutrients from stormwater discharges throughout the state.


DEP Ensures Strong Enforcement of Florida's Environmental Laws
through Environmental Crimes Unit

  • The department has been laser-focused on environmental enforcement since the Governor directed the transfer of the Environmental Crimes Unit back to DEP from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2019. Environmental Crimes Unit special agents, lieutenants and captains are fully constituted state of Florida law enforcement officers. Since moving to DEP, the Environmental Crimes Unit has criminally charged environmental violators with 124 felonies and 444 misdemeanors. Special agents also responded to hurricanes Ian and Nicole.


Florida Maintains its Designation as the Most Populous State to Meet All Stringent Federal Air Standards

  • Emissions from Florida sources are at an historic low, resulting in the best air quality the state has had since implementing its monitoring network.
  • In 2020, DEP announced an important milestone in Florida's air quality protection efforts by meeting all of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) statewideSince that time, Florida continues to meet all the NAAQS statewide. This is the culmination of several years of collaborative efforts between DEP, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and industry to reduce emissions and improve air quality for Floridians. These efforts have not only resulted in Florida continuing to have the cleanest air on record but also in its continued status as the most populous state in the nation to meet these stringent federal standards.


DEP Expands Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure, Procures Electric School Buses and Transit Buses, and Funds DERA Projects
through the Volkswagen Settlement

  • Under the Volkswagen Settlement, Florida was allotted $166 million to improve air quality. Florida’s Beneficiary Mitigation Plan, finalized in October 2019, outlines how the state intends to spend the full award under this settlement.
  • This year, through the Volkswagen Settlement, DEP:   
    • Allocated more than $68 million toward the cost of purchasing 227 electric transit buses that will replace existing diesel transit buses in 13 counties statewide (Alachua, Broward, Duval, Escambia, Hillsborough, Leon, Marion, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach, Pasco and Pinellas). 
    • Awarded more than $54 million to purchase 218 electric school buses in seven school districts (Broward, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Sarasota counties). Orange County Schools received its first delivery of electric school buses in early November, and several other school districts expect deliveries in the coming months. 
    • Completed a major marine vessel repowering project for a ferry serving Florida citizens and tourists in Monroe, Collier and Lee counties, with an additional repowering project planned for 2023.