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DEP, Joe Gruters announce resiliency grant for Sarasota County

Study will create long-term plans to address sea-level rise.

The beaches provide Sarasota not just with recreation but an international brand and an economic foundation. Sen. Joe Gruters doesn’t want that lost to sea level rise.

That’s why the Sarasota Republican trumpeted a $125,000 resiliency grant from the Department of Environmental Protection.

“With a tourism-driven economy, this was a way for the government to be proactive that allows us to be collaborative in nature,” Gruters said.

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said Sarasota County makes a perfect partner for efforts in dealing with sea level rise and erosion.

“One of the neat and really remarkable things in Sarasota is just how supporting the community is about protecting the environment,” he said.

A press conference on Friday included Gruters, Valenstein and Sarasota County Commissioner Christian Ziegler. There, officials said the grant money will be used to develop a comprehensive vulnerability study and resilience plan that lays out how federal, state and local officials can work together and strategically plan to address protecting the shoreline.

Valenstein noted that there are already four municipal efforts focused on protecting beaches. All for municipalities in the county — Sarasota, North Port, Venice and Longboat Key, appear on the list of grant recipients for the 2020-21 award year. Sarasota has its own Climate Adaptation Plan.

The DEP has already recognized 24.2 miles of shore in Sarasota as “critically eroding,” leading to regular re-nourishment of the shores.

The county grant not only helps coordinate efforts but ensures protection for the full 35 miles of sandy shores in Sarasota County.

The hope is the first-of-its-scale study will  help create a strategic plan for partner governments and agencies to build resilient beach and dune systems to reduce flooding and erosion.

Valenstein also stressed the work continues Gov. Ron DeSantis’ continued commitment to water quality and to the environment.

“It’s amazing how much has been happening in a short period of time,” Valenstein said. “With everything happening in the world, some of that gets missed. But it’s certainly not missed by this agency or the employees working on these issues on a day-to-day basis. It’s refreshing to see this Legislature and this Governor see that’s it’s investing in these issues.”

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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