Legislation to create a Biscayne Bay Commission to manage conservation projects in the area has just one more committee stop remaining before hitting the House floor after a committee advanced the measure Tuesday morning.
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee gave Republican Rep. Bryan Avila‘s bill (HB 1177) a thumbs-up Tuesday, making it the second successful committee stop for Avila so far.
“The presence of excess nutrients, sewage contamination, pollution and littering are several of the leading factors associated with Biscayne Bay’s rapid decline,” Avila said in explaining the need for the proposed Biscayne Bay Commission. “The commission would act as the main advocate and watchdog to ensure the bay’s projects are funded and implemented.”
The Biscayne Bay Commission would have three parts: a policy committee, a working group and a chief officer to advise Miami-Dade County.
The policy committee would hold most of the power and would consolidate existing improvement plans. The group would also monitor progress on those projects and seek grants to help complete them.
The policy committee would be tasked with hiring a chief officer to represent the commission and coordinate with county officials. The commission’s “working group” would consist of local businesses and civic associations, along with “all governmental agencies that have jurisdiction in the Biscayne Bay area.”
Miami-Dade County has designated Biscayne Bay a conservation area, but the popular tourist spot still deals with serious pollution problems. Avila’s proposal also would bar sewage disposal facilities from dumping waste into Biscayne Bay without providing advanced waste treatment.
Asked by Rep. Rick Roth about Miami-Dade County’s role in managing the bay, Avila argued additional coordination was necessary.
“Over the past three decades, the bay has been in a rapid decline,” Avila explained. “Throughout this time, there have been multiple task forces that have been set up by Miami-Dade County. But usually what has ended up occurring is that those task forces would meet once and then cease to meet again.”
He also cited difficulties with the current setup, where multiple entities at the federal, state and local level have some jurisdiction over the bay.
“The problem with that, and not having a sole source that is simply just responsible for Biscayne Bay, is that you often get the finger-pointing,” Avila argued.
“What often ends up happening is that no one really ends up addressing the problem. And so, this is why this bill is necessary, in order to really create one focal point, one sole-source entity that is simply and wholly responsible for the recovery of Biscayne Bay.”
The House panel’s approval Tuesday comes one day after the Senate Environment and Natural Resources advanced a companion measure, fronted by GOP Sen. Ileana Garcia. That measure (SB 1482) has two committee stops remaining. Avila’s has one more stop to go in the House State Affairs Committee.
“We’re at a pivotal point in Biscayne Bay’s history and really can no longer allow for inaction to threaten its future,” Avila said to close Tuesday’s hearing.