At a luncheon presented by the nonpartisan Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, Florida Gov. Rick Scott emphasized the importance of investing in environmental projects as a part of his recently announced budget. Scott was surrounded by environmental stakeholders and federal partners of Florida’s water-quality plan at the event in West Palm Beach.
Scott’s office released the following statement regarding the initiative:
“The health of the Everglades and Florida beaches is critical to our communities. We stand behind our commitment to the water quality plan and our obligation to support the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan,” Governor Scott said. “Our natural treasurers play a major role in attracting 90 million tourists a year to our state – and maintaining systems are essential to continuing in our efforts to create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”
As part of the Florida Families First budget submitted to the Legislature two weeks ago, Governor Scott proposed $60 million in Everglades funding for the water quality plan, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan, and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River Watershed Protection Plan.
“The Governor’s funding recommendations generously support our work to improve Everglades water quality and implement the science-based Restoration Strategies plan achieved under his leadership,” said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director, Melissa L. Meeker. “The recommended budget also supports the District’s important work in the state-federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and other vital projects that sustain and protect South Florida’s water resources.”
Executive Director of Audubon Florida, Eric Draper said, “Governor Scott’s Everglades water quality plan and budget recommendations are welcome demonstrations of his commitment to conserving Florida’s wildlife.”
CEO of the Everglades Foundation, Eric Eikenberg said, “We applaud Governor Rick Scott for his development of the Water Quality Plan and his support of including $60 million in the 2013-2014 budget for Everglades restoration. America’s Everglades provides drinking water for more than 7 million Floridians and is a critical driver of our state’s economy. We look forward to working with Governor Scott on the critical issues facing America’s Everglades.”
The budget also proposes $25 million of financial assistance to local and state governments and special taxing authorities for beach and dune restoration, beach nourishment, inlet sand bypassing, regional sediment management and innovative projects. In addition, Governor Scott has proposed $8 million to fix and maintain the local levee system in Palm Beach County, and additional funding for state parks.
Herschel T. Vinyard, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said, “By requesting more than a billion dollars to continue our pursuit of robust environmental protection, Governor Scott clearly understands that the future of Florida depends on its natural resources. This funding will restore water quality in the Everglades, rejuvenate our springs and provide a clean environment for all Floridians.”
The Florida Families First budget also includes $75 million for Florida Forever funding, which will focus in part on acquiring lands needed for springs protection, military base buffering and other water resource protection.
Col. Alan Dodd, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District said, “Progress continues to be made in Everglades restoration and this progress is contingent upon the commitment of this district and our partnering agencies. Through a dedicated and collaborative effort with the state of Florida, we will not only continue to move forward in our restoration goals, but also fulfill our obligation to the nation to preserve this national treasure.”
South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Joe Collins said, “The Governor’s commitment to protect South Florida’s unique ecosystems is clear in this recommended budget. Investments by the state and the South Florida Water Management District together will continue the progress we are making in Everglades restoration, including water quality improvements vital to these natural systems.”