Sea level rise bills pass Senate unanimously
Legislature commits to flighting effects of climate change. Image via Adobe.

Global Warming concept
Parts of two linked measures include a $100 million coastal mapping project.

Climate change is proving to be a bipartisan issue in the Legislature. Two high-profile bills to deal with the effects of climate change passed the Senate Wednesday, and companion bills in the House are nearing passage in that chamber.

The bills aim to address the adverse effects of sea level rise and flooding caused by climate change.

The Senate passed one bill containing a plan to combat sea level rise and another bill to fund it. Both bills passed unanimously.

“This great legislation elevates flood mitigation as a critical part of Florida’s public safety infrastructure.  With 35 coastal counties containing the majority of our population and economy, our risks are only going to increase with time,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said.

Neither of two bills on second reading in the House Wednesday faced questions. In past committee meetings both Democrats and Republicans praised the bills, sponsored by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera.

One part of the legislation (HB 7019 / SB 1954) would create the Resilient Florida Grant Program, which authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to provide grants to local governments to help combat rising sea levels.

Parts of the bill include a $100 million project run by DEP to procure “high-resolution coastal mapping services to provide seafloor data from the coast to the edge of the continental shelf or beyond.” Under the bill, the project would be completed by 2023 and updated every five years.

The data would be used to inform a Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan, which would be updated and submitted to the Governor and the Legislature every three years.

The plan would consist of ranked projects to address risks of flooding and sea level rise to coastal and inland communities. The projects would be submitted by local governments and chosen by DEP to receive grant funding. Each project must include a minimum 50% cost-share, unless a community is considered a “financially disadvantaged small community.” This exception was added by amendment to bills in both chambers Wednesday.

The bill also allows counties and municipalities to enter into agreements to form regional resilience coalitions, which could then coordinate solutions to adverse effects of sea level rise and apply for the grant program.

The bill would also establish the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation within the University of South Florida College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg. The Hub would research ways to improve flood monitoring and prediction, and report its progress to the Governor and Legislature on an annual basis.

The bill requires the Office of Economic & Demographic Research to track the amount of government money put toward minimizing effects of inland and coastal flooding.

The other piece of the legislation (HB 7021 / SB 2514) guarantees funding for the projects by establishing the Resilient Florida Trust Fund within the DEP.

Under the bill, DEP would use the trust as a funding source for the Resilient Florida Grant Program and the Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan. The trust would cover the cost to implement the plan, including the operation of the grant program, the grants and administrative and operational costs of the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation.

Alec Bogdanoff, Florida Director of the American Flood Coalition, released a statement Wednesday after the Senate’s passage of the legislation.

“We applaud the Senate’s unanimous passage of this monumental legislation on flooding and sea level rise for the state of Florida. We look forward to the House passing this measure and swiftly sending it to the Governor for signature,” Bogdanoff said.

If passed the legislation would check off a priority of Speaker Chris Sprowls, who made a show of announcing the legislation prior to the start of Session at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus in February.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for FloridaPolitics.com. Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected]


2 comments

  • jim

    April 8, 2021 at 12:35 am

    Sea levels rising ? What proof is there of that ?

  • Stan Chrzanowski

    April 8, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    Hey, Jim – time to get with the program…

    https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/florida-sen-rick-scott-brags-about-his-climate-change-record-11263292

    “In a letter sent this week to sustainability professor Yoca Arditi-Rocha, the executive director of Miami’s climate-change-fighting CLEO Institute, Scott staggeringly said he worked to fight sea-level rise and global warming, a claim that is less of a lie and more of an admission that reality has folded in upon itself and the concept of fact-checking is moot.”

Comments are closed.


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