DeSantis readies environmental plan for 2020 session

Gov. Ron DeSantis intends to use the first set of recommendations from the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force to craft his environmental proposals for the 2020 legislative session, which begins in January.

DeSantis said Wednesday his proposals, in part, will call for expanding state oversight of septic tanks, developing inspection and maintenance plans to ensure better upkeep of wastewater and stormwater systems and requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to track agricultural nutrient runoff with state educational institutions and the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services.

“I think it will, if enacted, make substantial improvements to water quality across the state, and I think that these will be policies that are informed by science,” DeSantis said during an appearance at the Loxahatchee River District in Jupiter. The task force, created through an executive order in January to respond to outbreaks of toxic algae across the state, finalized last week what members said was a broad roadmap for lawmakers. Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity, called DeSantis’ proposal an “encouraging” start.

“To effectively protect our health and wildlife. the state must immediately establish water quality standards for the highly toxic cyanobacteria algal blooms,” Lopez said. “We must expedite efforts to get harmful phosphorous pollution under control in Lake Okeechobee, now not later.”

Alex Gillen, executive director of Friends of the Everglades, said the state needs mandatory septic tank inspections. The task force document said blue-green algae blooms are expected to grow because of regional land-use changes that will impact local hydrology and through “increases in temperature and pronounced variability in precipitation patterns.”

It proposed several steps aimed at reducing toxic algae blooms, such as broader regulatory oversight of septic systems and taking steps to reduce sewer overflows in coastal areas from sea-level rise and more-frequent rainfall events.

© 2019 The News Service of Florida.