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Audubon Florida
The Advocate
Committees met again this week, with presentations focused on aquaculture, renewable energy, electric vehicles, non-motorized trails, and more.
Oyster shells on a grill.
Aquaculture Update in Senate Agricultural Committee Points to Potential Environmental Benefits
Portia Sapp, Director of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Aquaculture spoke to the Senate Agricultural Committee this week (Chair, Sen. Jay Collins (R-Tampa)).

Director Sapp shared insights on the state’s aquaculture industry, and its current role in Florida’s economy:

- There are about 1,000 aquaculture producers in Florida raising more than 1,500 species.
- About 40% of the producers grow shellfish, 28% grow ornamental fish or tropical fish, and 17% raise food fish.
- Hurricane Idalia this year caused over $34 million in losses and impacted approximately 400 facilities and disproportionately affected areas of the state where aquaculture is an economic driver.

Importantly, aquaculture done right can provide environmental benefits. Shellfish aquaculture in particular—oysters and clams—filter and remove sediment from the water. Last year alone, approximately four million oysters were farmed in our state.
Person on a bike path with grass in the background.
Shared-Use Nonmotorized Trail Program Sees Infusion of Funds, Studies
Ms. Huei Wei Chen, Chief Planner at the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), provided an update on the state’s Shared-Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail Program for the Senate Transportation Committee (Chair, Sen. DiCeglie (R-Indian Rocks Beach)).

SB 106, passed last year, prioritized the development of “regionally significant trails”—defined as trails crossing multiple counties; serving economic and ecotourism development; showcasing the state’s wildlife areas (including the Wildlife Corridor), ecology, and natural resources; and serving as main corridors for trail connectedness across the state. The bill also provided additional funding for the program, a one-time infusion of $20 million and an increase in the annual funding from $20 to $50 million.

This past year, FDOT worked on updating their inventory of trails within the system, adding pedestrian and bicycle counters as they make progress towards their final goal of 88 counters. Additionally, FDOT tracked several performance measures that included: modes of transportation used, duration of visit, frequency of visits, distance traveled each visit, and trail spending. Thus far FDOT has conducted 543 surveys and plans for more. As this program grows over the next few years through 2028, the department projects spending approximately $354 million on the SUN Trail Program.
Electric car charging up.
Future of Energy in Florida
This week the House Commerce Committee (Chair, Rep. Bob Rommell (R-Naples)) met to hear presentations on the near-future of clean energy technology improvements in Florida. Presenters represented the Public Service Commission (PSC), Duke Energy, Tampa Electric (TECO), Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), Cummins technology company, and General Motors.

The presenters summarized where they think the future of renewables is going in the Sunshine State, including:

- A 10x increase in EVs charging in Florida by 2032.

- New solar and energy storage projects, smart grid resiliency technology, and a new FPL hydrogen energy plant in Okeechobee, the first of its kind in Florida.

- GM noted that $38 billion worth of EV charging stations will be needed in Florida by 2030.
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