A high-profile pair of bills dealing with effects of climate change are sitting on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk, awaiting his signature.
The two bills, which address sea level rise mitigation and funding for it, were sent to the Governor Monday, the same day DeSantis held a press conference to discuss harmful algae blooms, another effect of climate change.
While DeSantis did not sign the bills at that press conference, it is widely expected he will. DeSantis has voiced support for the legislation as recently as last week and included funding for the issue in his proposed budget. House Speaker Chris Sprowls also marked the legislation as a priority.
Both bills were popular among members of the Legislature. They passed with nearly full support among both chambers, though in committee meetings some Democrats said the bills did not do enough to address causes of climate change.
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.
To inform the grant selection process, a project run by DEP would 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.
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.