TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to undertake the removal of storm debris from waterways in the Big Bend region following Hurricane Idalia. DEP has already tasked an existing contractor with the removal of debris. Mobilization has begun and removal will begin this week.
“Many communities impacted by Hurricane Idalia make their livings and support their families on the waterways of the Big Bend region,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Expediting debris removal will support full economic recovery and help these communities get back on their feet.”
Debris, especially in coastal areas, not only poses environmental concerns, such as water quality, flooding and navigational hazards, but also can affect Florida’s economy. For the Big Bend region, this includes the fishing and tourism industries. To ensure the state’s ability to quickly respond to storm damage, DEP has utilized a contract already in place to task AshBritt Inc. with the removal of debris in waterways, including fallen trees, vegetation and construction material from damaged homes and properties.
“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to disaster response,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “We are ready to utilize our emergency resources and work together across state agencies to respond to and continue recovery in the hardest hit areas.”
Aerial and ground assessments of major waterways and canals in the Big Bend region have been completed, and the most impacted waterways have been identified. With a focus on addressing the needs of fiscally constrained counties, work will first take place in the canals in Horseshoe Beach and the Steinhatchee River. Additional work will occur in the Econfina and Suwannee rivers and other regional waterways.
DEP continues to work with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and other federal and local emergency services to respond to storm-related environmental hazards.
In coordination with local partners, DEP has activated 71 Disaster Debris Management Sites statewide for temporary storage and processing of hurricane-generated debris, including three in Dixie and Taylor counties. These sites are a critical component of expediting cleanup, reducing environmental and public health impacts, and meeting federal reimbursement requirements.
FWC officers are also assessing waters in the impacted area for displaced or derelict vessels and are coordinating a plan for their removal. FWC has set up a hotline (888-404-3922) to report vessels lost, displaced, or rendered derelict as a result of the storm.