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Gov. DeSantis announces $481 million in wastewater, springs projects

WEEKI WACHEE SPRINGS - Today, Governor DeSantis was joined by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Shawn Hamilton, and Chief Science Officer Dr. Mark Rains to announce the awards for 103 wastewater and springs projects totaling $481 million. The projects awarded will improve water quality in waterbodies across Florida, reducing total nitrogen loading by a combined more than 700,000 pounds per year.

“These awards are going to make a big difference for our world-renowned springs and water quality all throughout the state of Florida,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Florida’s water resources are what our economy runs on - they are an economic driver, but even apart from that, our environment is really integral to what these communities are all about. We're blessed to have it and we have a responsibility to leave it better than we found it.

“Today, we are taking another step forward for the protection of our state’s natural resources,” said DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “This funding will support 103 important projects to construct, upgrade, or expand wastewater treatment facilities to provide advanced waste treatment, upgrade or convert traditional septic systems, and acquire land that will restore and protect our springs and other waterways.

“We are so honored to have Governor DeSantis visit Weeki Wachee Springs State Park for today’s important announcement,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson. “Florida’s pristine natural beauty is world-renowned and together with Governor DeSantis, the Florida Legislature has worked to ensure that we have the funds necessary to preserve these resources. We have been working for many years to dedicate more resources to wastewater programs that we know make a huge difference in our environment, and our Governor has been a tremendous champion of those efforts. We are proud to partner with Governor DeSantis not only to keep Florida free, but to preserve her natural beauty and resources for future generations.”

“Ensuring that our state’s water is clean is a key part of preparing Florida today for our future generations,” said House Speaker Chris Sprowls. “Some of the best memories I have with my two young sons are on Florida’s waterways. As they grow up and build families of their own, my hope is that they, too, can one day share in the joy of Florida’s waterways with their kids. I commend Governor DeSantis for his attention to this pressing issue and to the members of the House who saw the legislation to passage so that today’s announcement could be possible. Today, we are one step closer to making sure our beloved waterways are preserved, restored, and able to be enjoyed for many years to come.”

"I want to thank Governor DeSantis for his leadership and commitment to implementing sound, science-based solutions to current and future environmental challenges,” said Florida Chief Science Officer Dr. Mark Rains. “Today's announcement is another example of this vision in action. These projects will result in demonstrable water quality benefits for our springs and waterbodies throughout the state.”

"As a lifelong Floridian, I see this $481 million investment in future water quality projects as good news, especially with so much of the funding going towards mitigation of septic and sewer issues that have contributed to red tide issues in our state," said Capt. C.A. Richardson, Captains for Clean Water Ambassador. "Never has our state seen so much support from a Governor on behalf of water quality and our natural resources. It gives hope to all of us who call Florida home! Captains for Clean Water stands behind these initiatives and knows they will make a difference for future generations."

“What an amazing water quality funding announcement today - clean water is the basis for everything that makes Florida great, especially our fisheries,” said Kellie Ralston, Vice President for Conservation and Public Policy with the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. “Governor DeSantis continues to show his commitment, with the support of the Legislature, to our state’s natural resources and follows through on his funding promises.”

“I applaud the Governor and DEP for providing funding to local communities to improve our precious springs,” said John Mitten, Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board member. “The springs are the lifeblood of our communities, and we want to do all we can to protect them now and for future generations.”

“Protecting the first-magnitude springs in our District is a top priority,” said Brian Armstrong, Southwest Florida Water Management District Executive Director. “Thanks to the leadership of the Governor and funding from DEP, we’ll be able to do even more to improve our springs such as taking harmful septic tanks offline, which are contributing significant nitrogen pollution to the spring systems.”

“We are excited to partner with the State in protecting Weeki Wachee Springs from the impact of conventional septic systems," said Hernando County Administrator Jeff Rogers. "This funding not only removes 224 septic systems from the Weeki Wachee springshed, but also upgrades the master infrastructure needed to implement the County’s 20-year plan to convert nearly 3,400 septic systems to centralized sewer.”

The more than $481 million awarded today was made available through three grant programs administered by DEP – the Wastewater Grant Program, Springs restoration grants, and the Small Community Wastewater Grant Program.

  • $394 million from the Wastewater Grant Program for wastewater treatment improvements, including septic to sewer projects and projects to upgrade to advanced waste treatment. The $394 million awarded today is from federal funds.
  • $67 million for projects to protect Florida’s world-renowned springs including land acquisition/conservation easements and wastewater infrastructure improvements. Of the $67 million awarded today, $50 million is from state funds and $17 million is from federal funds.
  • $20 million for the Small Community Wastewater Grant Program for wastewater facility improvements in Rural Areas of Economic Opportunity and financially disadvantaged communities. The $20 million awarded today is from federal funds. 

 For a list of all awarded wastewater projects, visit here.

For a list of all awarded springs projects, visit here

DEP’s wastewater grant program was established in the Clean Waterways Act, which Governor DeSantis championed and signed into law in 2020. The program prioritizes wastewater projects in basin management action plans, restoration plan areas and rural areas of opportunity and also requires at least a 50% match, which may be waived by DEP for rural areas of opportunity. Wastewater infrastructure projects that are eligible for grant funding include projects to construct, upgrade, or expand wastewater treatment facilities to provide advanced waste treatment and projects to upgrade or convert traditional septic systems.  All projects funded through the wastewater grant program within DEP will reduce nutrient pollution to Florida’s waterways.

Florida is home to more first- and second-magnitude springs than any other state in the nation. Florida’s springs can support entire ecosystems, offer many recreational opportunities, and serve as economic driver for communities. Governor DeSantis has made a significant financial commitment to springs restoration, dedicating $225 million since Fiscal Year 2019-20. This funding has enabled DEP to assist local governments and other stakeholders to identify and construct projects that are imperative to achieving restoration goals.

The Small Community Wastewater Grant Program funds septic to sewer conversions and wastewater treatment facility improvements in Rural Areas of Opportunity and Fiscally Constrained Counties, as defined in Section 288.0656 and 218.67(1), Florida Statutes.

On September 24, Governor DeSantis was in Brevard County to announce the award of $114 million for the first grants from the Wastewater Grant Program. Out of the $114 million awarded, more than $53 million – 46 percent of the funding – was granted to the Indian River Lagoon, the most biologically diverse estuary in North America and an important resource for species such as the Florida scrub-jay, manatees and sea turtles.