Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka (R-78) was joined by members of Lee County’s state legislative delegation, county lawmakers and other local politicians on June 23 at Riverside Community Center in Fort Myers to announce planned water infrastructure projects that were funded in the latest legislative session, as well as other funding for Lee County to recover from Hurricane Ian.
At a press conference overlooking the Caloosahatchee River, Persons-Mulicka spoke of $125 million for water infrastructure projects in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins which she said would “help ease the cost of building modern wastewater and stormwater infrastructure to help prevent against local water quality challenges like red tide and harmful blue-green algae blooms.” She said the newly-passed state budget includes local infrastructure improvements for water quality, stormwater management, water treatment and septic-to-sewer conversion projects.
Persons-Mulicka, whose district covers Fort Myers, said the state budget recently signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis allocates funds for projects in Lee County from “hurricane recovery to infrastructure and resiliency to water quality and numerous community initiatives.” The state Legislature approved a $350 million funding package for hurricane recovery throughout the state.
Sen. Jonathan Martin (R-33) said the state budget includes more than $694 million for Everglades restoration projects, which will help Lee County’s estuaries and tourism. The funds include $58 million for restoration strategies, more than $356 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, $64 million for the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir project, more than $96 million for protection for northern Everglades estuaries and $50 million for project components to reduce harmful discharges to estuaries.
Martin, whose district includes most of Lee County, said “this budget is a continuation of what we have seen with Gov. DeSantis. His focus on making sure that our environment is taken care of because our environment is important to every component of our lives here in Southwest Florida, to our personal lives to tourism, to development, most importantly to the quality of our lives.”
“We have to make sure the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee is good for our estuaries, good for our neighbors, good for our health and good for tourism,” he said.
Rep. Tiffany Esposito (R-77), whose district includes part of Fort Myers, Estero, Buckingham and Lehigh Acres, said “we have red tide simmering and blue-green algae showing up in local canals. The best way to minimize harmful algal blooms of all types is to stop feeding them. That’s how we will continue to repair our seagrass and our fisheries and that’s how we will continue to stop the health risks associated with exposure. With these state investments that we’ve seen this year, we can build resilient water infrastructure without leaving home and business owners to bear that cost. There are far too many people in this region with failing septic tanks and it’s creating a significant impact on our water quality as we know.”
She said local estuaries cannot handle the hurricane flooding the area witnessed during Ian.