House lawmakers moved forward with setting up a Biscayne Bay Commission to help improve environmental quality in the South Florida bay.
But the measure from Republican Rep. Bryan Avila (HB 1177) did undergo some changes Thursday. Legislators adopted an amendment slightly altering the committee makeup.
The bill still directs the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners to select three of its own members to serve on the Biscayne Bay Commission. One member of the South Florida Water Management District Board who lives in Miami-Dade County would also serve. The Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Inland Navigation District would each select one member as well.
But Avila’s bill will now be in line with the Senate version regarding the final two spots. Avila’s previous version saw Miami-Dade County League of Cities members occupying the final two spots. Now, that organization would receive just one spot. The Governor would make the final appointment.
“The Biscayne Bay Commission would seek and receive funding to develop coordinated plans, priorities, programs, projects and budgets that can substantially improve the bay,” Avila told lawmakers Thursday. “The commission would act as a main advocate and watchdog to ensure that the Bay’s projects are funded and implemented.”
The Biscayne Bay Commission would be installed within the Department of Environmental Protection. Avila’s bills would also ban sewage disposal facilities from dumping waste into Biscayne Bay without providing advanced waste treatment.
“Last August, my community was horrified to see thousands of fish and marine life turn up dead in Biscayne Bay,” Avila said. “This fish kill was just another chapter in its recent history of environmental decline.”
Avila blamed “excess nutrients, sewage contamination, pollution and littering” as leading factors creating those environmental issues.
GOP Sen. Ileana Garcia is backing the Senate companion measure (SB 1482), which has one committee stop remaining in the Appropriations Committee.