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DeSantis to pause bans on fertilizer. Advocates worry it’ll worsen water woes

Nearly $800 million for water quality programs. Close to $700 million for Everglades restoration. A $100 million Indian River Lagoon Protection program.

These are all environmental projects Gov. Ron DeSantis proudly approved funding for at a press conference Thursday in Fort Pierce where he signed the largest state budget in history.

But many Florida environmentalists feel one critical action was missing — a line-item veto to a measure that would suspend creation of new city and county fertilizer bans past July 1 and fund a $250,000 study at the University of Florida to evaluate their effectiveness.

The legislature tacked the item onto the budget, which it approved in May. Its approval won’t affect existing fertilizer bans, like the one through October in Miami-Dade County. Rather, it’ll prevent cities and towns from creating new ordinances or extending existing ones.

Pushing a policy change through the budget rather than allowing it to go through the legislative process with public input was a mistake, said Eve Samples, executive director of environmental group Friends of the Everglades.

“It was really a sneak attack,” she said. “There’s a disconnect between what we’re seeing out of Tallahassee and the dire water quality issues we’re facing in Florida.”

Throughout Florida, there are more than 100 municipalities that restrict fertilizer use during the rainy season in order to prevent excess phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. This includes several in South Florida, including Ft. Lauderdale, Key Biscayne and Miami Beach.