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Photo by AP, courtesy of WINK News

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference at Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille in Bonita Springs on Tuesday to discuss continuing water quality and nature conservation efforts throughout Florida.

DeSantis visited Bonita Springs exactly four years ago to the date in 2019 and announced commitments to water quality and restoration of the Everglades through signing an executive order pledging $2.5 billion over his first term for key projects.

“I had come to Southwest Florida in 2018 during the campaign, and a lot of the hotels and restaurants were doing very poorly because of some of the [water] issues that were happening with a lot of the fishing. So we understood how important that was, so we decided to do something about it,” DeSantis said. “And we made promises to do big things. And I’m happy to say that in the last four years, we’ve delivered on the promises that we made that day four years ago.”

DeSantis relayed achievements for the state’s water quality and conservation in the last four years when his administration pledged a total of $3.3 billion toward the efforts. He attributed the success to the area’s large tourism numbers, which created a higher revenue than anticipated for the state by about $450 million.

Over four years, $1.7 billion was spent on Everglades restoration, almost as much as the previous 12 years combined. Now, more than 50 Everglades projects have been either completed, broken ground or hit a major milestone. Additionally, a wastewater grant program has been established to update wastewater infrastructure which includes septic to sewer conversion.

Outside of the executive order, $600 million was spent to create the Florida Wildlife Corridor, an effort to connect the state’s national and state parks with open land for wildlife to roam. “That’s going to be something that generations of Floridians will be able to enjoy,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis went on to sign Executive Order 23-06 to continue the momentum for conservation. He is pledging $3.5 billion over the next four years, a $1 billion increase from his previous term.

Priorities within the order include expediting water quality restoration in the Indian River Lagoon, directing the South Florida Water Management District to continue its Everglades restoration projects and working with the Department of Agriculture to improve agricultural management practices to reduce nutrients from entering waterways.

“So all being told, this may be a bigger, more comprehensive executive order than we did four years ago, but I think that’s the right thing to do,” DeSantis said. “You can make progress, you can do good things and you just got to keep pressing forward. And I know we have so much momentum that I think you’re going to see a lot of support in the Legislature for this, and I think we’re going to continue to be able to do good things for the people all throughout the state of Florida. So I’m excited to be able to sign this today.”

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