‘Robust and bold’: Sea level rise legislation ready for Governor’s desk
Legislature commits to flighting effects of climate change. Image via Adobe.

Global Warming concept
The House substituted the Senate version of the legislation, which passed that chamber Wednesday.

A multipart plan to deal with rising sea levels caused by climate change passed the House Thursday, checking off a state priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

“That is one of the most robust and bold proposals in the entire United States of America to tackle sea level rise and coastal flooding of any state,” Sprowls said at the podium after the legislation passed the House.

The House substituted the Senate version of the legislation, which passed that chamber Wednesday.

“Sea level rise and flooding, it doesn’t care who you are or which zip code you live in. It affects all Floridians,” said Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, who sponsored the House bill.

The American Flood Coalition released a statement of support shortly after the passage.

“As our country grapples with the reality of more frequent flooding and sea level rise, we must take bold and systematic action like this legislation does to understand increasing risk and invest in our communities,” Melissa Roberts, Executive Director of the American Flood Coalition, said. “This is a historic moment for Florida as one of the most flood-affected states, and this legislation is truly a model for the nation.”

Lighthouse Point Rep. Chip LaMarca issued a statement after the bill’s passage.

“Resiliency has been a top priority of mine for more than 10 years, and I will continue to fight for a more resilient Florida. Whether coastal resiliency in 2018 or HB 315 this Session — I am extremely proud that the Florida Legislature has taken bold steps to solve our sea level rise issues this year,” LaMarca said.

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

Parts of the bill include a 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.”

The bill also allows counties and municipalities to enter into agreements to form regional resilience coalitions, which could then coordinate solutions to rising sea levels 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 (SB 2514) guarantees $100 million per year of continued funding by establishing the Resilient Florida Trust Fund within the DEP.

“For the first time Floridians will have a statewide plan to address flooding, and we will dedicate $100 million per year to that cause,” Sprowls said in a press conference Thursday after the bill’s passage.

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.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown is a capitol reporter for FloridaPolitics.com. Her background includes covering the West Virginia Legislature for a regular segment on WVVA-TV in Bluefield called Capitol Beat. Her reporting in southern West Virginia also included city issues, natural disasters, crime, human interest, and anchoring weekend newscasts. Haley is a Florida native. You can reach her at [email protected]


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