Beaches to benefit from state budget

state budget
Anna Maria Island’s beaches will benefit from the state 2018-19 fiscal year budget. - Cindy Lane | Sun

CITY ISLAND – Florida’s beaches and red tide research are among the beneficiaries of the nearly $89 billion state fiscal year 2018-19 budget that Gov. Rick Scott approved in March, he announced at Mote Marine Laboratory last week.

While agriculture accounts for a large portion – more than $1.7 billion – of the $4 billion environmental budget component, beaches, parks, springs, the Everglades and other initiatives receive significant investment, up slightly from the 2017-18 budget.

A record $100 million is budgeted for beach restoration – $50 million for beach and dune restoration, beach renourishment and other coastal restoration projects and $50 million for the state’s share of beach restoration due to Hurricane Irma damage in 2017.

Another $3.6 million is set aside for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) new Florida Resilient Coastline Initiative, which will assist local governments with sea level rise planning, coastal resilience projects and protection of coral reef health, including Mote’s Coral Reef Restoration Initiative.

The budget allows $500,000 for Mote’s coral initiative in coordination with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), DEP, and others. In combination with a similar 2018 state investment, Mote scientists hope to restore 50,000 corals by 2019, with a goal to eventually restore 1 million corals and increase living coral reefs by 25 percent, according to Mote officials.

With the environment being the primary tourist attraction in the state, “These investments aren’t just a positive step in support of our environment, but a strong investment in Florida’s economy,” Mote Marine Laboratory President and CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby said.

Red tide

The budget also includes $1.6 million for a red tide research program between Mote and FWRI to “strengthen research, education and outreach efforts, including development of new technologies for mitigation, clean-up, control and community reporting of red tides, rapid assessment for bloom forecasting, public health protection with expansion of Mote’s Beach Conditions Reporting System, and expanded research into the effects of red tide on commercial fisheries,” Crosby said.

“Red tides in Florida negatively impact our environment and economy by killing fish, harming marine mammals, closing shellfish harvest areas, deterring tourists from visiting Gulf coastlines, causing beachgoers to cough and sneeze due to airborne toxins, and even sending people with chronic respiratory disorders to hospital emergency rooms,” he said. “Mote’s world-class independent research enterprise is designed to address such threats and benefit Florida’s natural ecosystems.”

Other environmental budget beneficiaries are:

  • Water quality – $460 million
  • Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, dike repair – $355 million
  • Natural lands, Florida Forever – $172 million
  • Springs – $55 million
  • Parks – $50 million
  • Water infrastructure – $50 million
  • Wildfire prevention, firefighter raises – $3 million