Gov. Rick Scott’s budget slogan this year is that his spending proposals demonstrate he is “Fighting for Florida’s Future.”
The answer on which future he’s describing is mixed.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection sent a press release listing $688.2 million in environmental projects as part of this theme.
Everglades restoration was the biggest category, making up 32.7 percent of the funds, plus an additional 8.7 percent for restoration work in the Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee River to improve sewer treatment, reduce septic tank pollution and dredge nutrient-rich muck from waterways. Also, the 8 percent of the budget set aside for land acquisition includes a significant amount for land purchases north of Lake Okeechobee to reduce pollution flows. There is nothing in the proposed budget to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee to move more fresh water to the Everglades. Where Amendment 1 money plays into this work wasn’t immediately obvious.
Another large chunk totaling 30 percent of the project budget list is for economic development projects to fix beach erosion along the Atlantic coast to make beaches more accessible and developable, sea level rise or no sea level rise, and to fund projects to come up with “alternative water” projects to provide water for future development in the nation’s second-most populous state in recognition of the consensus that aquifer withdrawals have reached their sustainable capacity.
State park improvements make up 7.3 percent of the total and springs protection make up 9.4 percent.
DEP’s total budget is the only state environmental agency whose budget is proposed to increase.
The proposed budgets for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Forest Service show decreases.
So far all I’ve seen is general outlines, but more details will be available as the Florida Legislature begins reviewing the budget and offering its own recommendations after the 2017 session begins next month.