DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton Highlights Continued Historic Environmental Achievements in 2023

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DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton Highlights Continued Historic Environmental Achievements in 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) celebrates its major accomplishments in protecting Florida’s natural resources for 2023. Over the past few years, DEP has undertaken an ambitious environmental agenda, including advancing Everglades Restoration, enacting historic legislation to enhance water quality protections, creating an office dedicated to the resilience of Florida’s inland and coastal communities, and securing record environmental funding.The historic funding levels since 2019 have enabled the success of the state’s environmental achievements and further established Florida’s position as a leader in environmental protection. 

Florida’s natural resources are the foundation of the state’s communities, economy and way of life,” said DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton. Under Governor Ron DeSantis’ leadership and with the support of the Florida Legislature, the state has taken historic steps to effectively address our most pressing environmental issues. With the signing of Executive Order 23-06, the passing of House Bill 1379 and record funding levels, Florida’s environment will remain a priority and DEP will continue to have the resources to bolster our long-term environmental programs for future generations. I look forward to all that is ahead in 2024.” 

DEP’s most significant environmental accomplishments for 2023 are shared below.


 Governor DeSantis Signs Historic Executive Order Continuing
the State’s Stewardship of Florida’s Natural Resources

  • In January, Governor DeSantis signed Executive Order 23-06 (Achieving Even More Now for Florida’s Environment), to further advance the protection of Florida’s environment and water quality. The Executive Order calls for a $3.5 billion investment over four years for Everglades restoration and the protection of our water resources, surpassing the historic investments of the past four years. After the success of the 2023 Florida Legislative Session, DEP is well on its way to this goal, with more than $1.6 billion already dedicated. 
  • Key provisions of Executive Order 23-06 include directing DEP to: 
    • Secure a historic $3.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of our water resources, including water quality and water supply.
    • Prioritize the protection of the Indian River Lagoon and secure at least $100 million annually for priority projects to improve water quality in the lagoon. 
    • Expand the previously-created Wastewater Grant Program by broadening project eligibility to address impacts to water quality from nonpoint sources, such as stormwater and agricultural runoff. 
    • Ensure that all wastewater facilities discharging to waterbodies within a basin management action plan area or waterbody not attaining water quality standards upgrade to advanced wastewater treatment by 2033. 
    • Coordinate with the Florida Department of Commerce to improve local government long-term comprehensive planning so that sewer connections and advanced wastewater treatment systems are prioritized to better protect our natural resources. 
    • Strengthen basin management action plans, which provide a roadmap to restoring water quality and reducing pollutants, to include the specific projects necessary to achieve nutrient reduction goals. 
    • Ensure continued funding for statewide resilience projects through the Resilient Florida Program and completion of comprehensive vulnerability assessments for all of Florida's counties and municipalities by 2026. 
    • Take all necessary steps to expedite the state’s land conservation efforts, including a strategic focus on acquisitions within the Florida Wildlife Corridor. 
  • During the 2023 Florida Legislative Session, DEP proposed comprehensive environmental protection legislation to support the goals of this order and build on the historic investments that Florida has made since 2019. This legislation passed unanimously in both the Florida House and Senate and DEP is working diligently to implement these new protections. 

 Florida Makes Historic Progress on Everglades Restoration  

  • Since 2019, nearly $2.4 billion in state funding has been dedicated to expediting and making progress on priority Everglades Restoration projects, which is more than the previous 12 years combined. As a result of this significant investment, more than 65 Everglades Restoration projects have broken ground, achieved a major milestone or finished construction.
  • Recent Everglades Restoration successes include:  
    • Broke ground on the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project, which, in conjunction with other Central Everglades Planning Project features, will deliver an annual average of 360,000 acre-feet of clean water south to the Everglades. 
    • Broke ground on the Central Everglades Planning Project North Phase, which will restore water levels in the northern portion of the Central Everglades and improve water resource resilience in South Florida. 
    • Completion of the Taylor Slough Flow Improvement Project, which will move more water south through to Florida Bay, where it is needed to balance salinity levels and promote ecological health.   
    • Completion of the Caloosahatchee (C-43) Reservoir Pump Station, which will move water from the Caloosahatchee River (C-43 Canal) into a reservoir and reduce harmful flows of water from reaching the downstream Caloosahatchee Estuary. 
    • Completion of the S-709 pump station, which is part of the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project and will restore freshwater flows to southern Biscayne Bay and Biscayne National Park while improving salinity distribution near the shore.

DEP Invests in Targeted Water Quality Improvements 

  • With a five-year state investment of $1.9 billion, the Florida Legislature identified specific areas and issues to target water quality improvements. These include funding support for specific areas, such as Biscayne Bay, Springs Coast, the Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee Estuary.  
  • Since 2019, DEP has awarded more than 920 grants for targeted water quality projects, which will result in nitrogen reductions of more than 4.7 million pounds per year and phosphorous reductions of more than 525,000 pounds per year.  
  • Following the 2023 Legislative Session, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 1379, which expands the former Wastewater Grant Program to include additional types of eligible projects – including upgrades and repairs to wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, septic-to-sewer conversions and projects to address agricultural nonpoint sources – as well as additional areas of the state that are now eligible for this program. It also created the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program, which supports targeted water quality improvement projects.  

 DEP Improves Florida’s Environmental Resilience 

  • Through the Resilient Florida Program, the state is empowering Florida counties and their municipalities to understand their unique flood vulnerabilities and to begin designing effective adaptations to reduce current and projected flood and storm surge risks to community critical assets. In February, DEP announced the award of over $28 million for 128 planning grants to develop or update comprehensive vulnerability assessments. At the conclusion of these assessments, all 67 counties in Florida will have completed a vulnerability assessment, allowing the included projects to be eligible for program implementation grants.
  • To further these efforts, the state is supporting adaptation and mitigation projects through the Statewide Resilience Plan, which provides funding for the highest-ranked implementation projects across the state. In February, Governor DeSantis awarded more than $275 million for 74 resilience projects in this plan using already-appropriated funding.
  • In July, Governor DeSantis announced the award of more than $300 million for 71 new resilience and adaptation projects and three previously awarded projects included in this plan.
  • Florida is home to the only barrier coral reef system in the continental U.S. Since 2019, Florida has devoted over $50 million for coral reef recovery and restoration, including for research, in-situ treatment, propagation, restoration and monitoring efforts. DEP also established the new Florida’s Coral Reef Restoration and Recovery Initiative created in Executive Order 23-06, which will develop the infrastructure and capacity for coral propagation, technology development, skilled workforce enhancement and logistics needed to support the long-term recovery of Florida's Coral Reef.
  • In the past five years, the state has invested more than $556 million in beach nourishment and inlet management to continue addressing Florida’s critically eroded shorelines. This includes the more than $206 million that was appropriated for beach nourishment and shoreline restoration for communities impacted by hurricanes Ian and Nicole. 

DEP Funds Projects to Protect Florida’s Iconic Springs 

  • Florida is home to more 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 $325 million over the last five years specifically for springs restoration. This record funding has enabled DEP to assist local governments and other stakeholders in identifying and constructing projects that are imperative for achieving restoration goals.
  • In November, Governor DeSantis announced $57 million in funding for 23 projects primarily focused on wastewater treatment improvements, including septic-to-sewer, pollution control and land acquisition/conservation easements. 

DEP Helps Offset Groundwater Use with Alternative Water Supply Projects 

  • In Florida, water resource managers are proactively balancing the needs of the state’s growing population with the needs of the natural systems to ensure the state meets its future water demands. Since 2019, the Florida Legislature has allocated $190 million in state funding to support the development of alternative water supplies statewide. With this commitment, the state has advanced 95 projects, which are anticipated to produce more than 225 million gallons per day when fully online. Projects include water conservation, aquifer recharge and the development of alternative water supplies, such as reclaimed water, brackish water and surface water storage.  


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

  • Florida is at the forefront of the nation’s land protection efforts and continues to be a model for other land acquisition programs across the country. Since 2019, the state has invested $1.25 billion for land acquisition through the Florida Forever Program and acquired nearly 220,000 acres for conservation, 90% of which are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
  • Notable land acquisition approvals in 2023 include: a conservation easement over more than 2,500 acres within the Triple Diamond Florida Forever Project in Okeechobee County, which, along with existing conservation lands, will contribute to a protection area of more than 200,000 acres; more than 1,500 acres within the Wolfe Creek Forest Florida Forever Project in Santa Rosa County, which will provide military base buffering for Whiting Field Naval Air Station; a conservation easement over more than 10,000 acres within the Fisheating Creek Ecosystem Florida Forever Project in Glades County, which is part of the Primary Dispersal/Expansion Area for the Florida panther; and more than 17,000 acres within the Devil’s Garden Florida Forever Project in Hendry County, which borders Big Cypress National Preserve and will advance Everglades Restoration efforts.
  • In addition, following the 2023 Legislative Session, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 1379, which creates efficiencies for the state’s land conservation efforts through the Florida Forever Program and dedicates consistent funding of $100 million annually for land acquisition to enable the state to continue conserving environmentally sensitive lands. 
Florida Wildlife Corridor

Florida State Parks Welcome Nearly 29 Million Visitors in 2023 

  • The Florida Park Service is the only four-time winner of the Gold Medal honoring the nation’s best park system and this past fiscal year, Florida’s state parks welcomed nearly 29 million visitors, generating over $83 million in revenue for the state along with an estimated economic impact of over $3.6 billion.
  • To encourage Floridians to go outdoors and explore Florida’s natural resources, Governor DeSantis announced the Great Outdoors Initiative and signed Executive Order 23-209, directing DEP and FWC to provide a significant 50% discount on annual state park passes and FWC Gold Sportsman hunting and fishing licenses. Since the initiative began, DEP has sold a total of 27,815 annual state park passes, which breaks down to 7,709 individual passes and 20,106 family passes. This is nearly four times the number of annual passes sold during this same period last year. These savings continue to be available through Jan. 13, 2024.
  • DEP also partnered with the Florida Prepaid College Savings Program to award 10 Florida children a $1,000 scholarship in a Florida 529 Savings Plan, plus a Florida State Parks Junior Ranger gift pack, including a hammock and an inflatable standup paddleboard. The promotion was used to encourage children to learn about Florida’s environment through the Florida State Parks Junior Ranger Program. 


DEP Nears Full Implementation of Florida’s Clean Waterways Act 

  • For nearly three years, DEP has been actively engaged in rulemaking activities to increase the removal of nutrients, as required by Florida’s Clean Waterways Act (Chapter 2020-150, Laws of Florida). As part of this effort, DEP opened approximately 200 rules and this year, the department saw the culmination of this work.
  • During the 2023 Florida Legislative Session, DEP secured legislative ratification for Chapter 62-6, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), Standards for Onsite Sewage and Treatment Disposal Systems (OSTDS), and Chapter 62-600, F.A.C., Domestic Wastewater Facilities. Among the benefits, these revisions implement more stringent OSTDS permitting requirements and require power outage contingency plans for collection systems to prevent sanitary sewer overflows.
  • Rulemaking was also completed for Chapter 62-330, F.A.C., Environmental Resource Permitting, which updates stormwater rules and design criteria. DEP will seek ratification of these rule revisions during the 2024 Florida Legislative Session. 

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

  • While simultaneously growing faster than any other state, Florida has demonstrated the best air quality the state has had since the implementation of its monitoring network in the early 1970s.
  • 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) statewide. Since that time, Florida continues to meet all the NAAQS statewide. This is the culmination of several years of collaborative efforts between DEP and stakeholders to reduce emissions and improve air quality for Floridia’s residents. 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. 

First Phase of Closure Completed at Former Piney Point Facility 

  • In September, DEP announced a major milestone toward the permanent closure of the former Piney Point facility – the successful closure of the OGS-South compartment area. This reservoir no longer accumulates and retains rainwater and has been integrated into the site’s existing clean, noncontact stormwater management system.
  • The second phase of work – closing the NGS-South compartment – is underway. DEP is working closely with the court-appointed receiver to provide stringent regulatory oversight of the facility’s ongoing site maintenance and water management activities and to ensure that progress toward closure is achieved as expeditiously as possible. 

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

  • DEP has been laser-focused on environmental enforcement since Governor DeSantis directed the transfer of the Environmental Crimes Unit back to DEP from FWC in 2019. Environmental Crimes Unit special agents, lieutenants and captain are fully constituted state of Florida law enforcement officers. Since moving to DEP, the Environmental Crimes Unit has criminally charged environmental violators with 150 felonies and 568 misdemeanors. Special agents also responded to Hurricane Idalia this year.
  • In addition, this year, DEP’s Office of Emergency Response conducted over 380 on-scene responses to environmental pollution threats of all forms, including vehicle accidents involving petroleum or hazardous spills and coastal oil spills. DEP’s emergency response personnel provide technical and on-site assistance to ensure threats to the environment and human safety are quickly and effectively addressed. 

Learn more about what DEP is doing to protect Florida’s environment at