Senate advances bill to create sea level rise projections
Rapidly rising sea levels will be measured in feet, not inches.

SB 7016 would create a sea level task force and an office under the Governor.

The Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill Thursday creating a sea level rise office and task force.

That measure (SB 7016), written by the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee and spearheaded by Chair Tom Lee, creates the Statewide Office of Resiliency and the Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force. The state’s Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), currently under the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), would oversee both bodies.

An Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection currently sits under DEP, but the new office would report directly to the Governor. The bill does not specify the new office’s role, but states that the task force will create sea-level rise baseline projections with assistance from DEP to be sent to that department’s Environmental Regulation Commission for approval.

Lee, a Spring Hills Republican Senator, noted Florida is likely the state most vulnerable to rising sea levels, and it could affect different parts of the state to differing degrees. Currently, the state has no official sea-level rise projections.

“You can’t modify or adopt public policy in response to what the world’s going to look like in 30, 40 years if you don’t have a consensus view of what that is,” Lee told Senators.

A Senate staff analysis said a Southeast Florida work group dealing with climate-change issues has projected the region could see sea levels rise from 1 to nearly 3 feet over the next 40 years, while a Tampa Bay advisory panel estimates waters in that are could go up 1 to 2.5 feet in 30 years.

“In the U.S., sea level rise and flooding threaten an estimated $1 trillion in coastal real estate value, and analyses estimate that there is a chance Florida could lose more than $300 billion in property value by 2100,” the staff analysis said.

Nine members would comprise the task force — including the CRO, as chair, and the DEP Chief Science Officer, as vice chair. Members appointed by the Senate President, House Speaker, Department of Transportation, Division of Emergency Management, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Economic Opportunity would round out the final seven and be filled by August 1.

Last month, President Donald Trump appointed the state’s then-Chief Resilience Officer, Julia Nesheiwat, to be his homeland security advisor. But with an October 1 deadline for the CRO to convene the task force, Lee joked he has impeccable timing.

“Whoever picks up the ball and begins to run with it here will have to hit the pavement running here, I acknowledge that,” he said. “But hopefully the work that’s been done by the CRO currently in collaboration with local governments will help keep this moving forward.”

Saint Johns Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson‘s companion version (HB 1073) stalled in its final House committee but received unanimous approval in its.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at r[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

One comment

  • Charles M

    March 5, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    On one hand, we have concerns about sea level rise in our beach communities. On the other, we have beach communities that would rather drown than pass a vacation rental bill that would bring in incremental tax dollars to help build the infrastructure to protect these communities. We need to think longer term. If tourists want to bring in money to help us reinvest in our beach communities, we should remove the “local” red tape and pass HB1011.

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