Bill formalizing statewide resilience office, authorizing grant dispersal clears final House panel
As sea level rises, elevate and retreat are the two major issues., Image via Key West Citizen.

Florida's 1,350-mile coastline faces pressing threats from an encroaching sea.

A bill that would formalize the Statewide Office of Resilience and create the official position of Chief Resilience Officer under the Governor, and would add on to sea level rise and resilience measures passed last year, cleared its final House panel Wednesday.

The bill (HB 7053) was sponsored in the House by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera in response to Senate legislation introduced by Sen. Jason Brodeur.

“What we’re doing here is putting some of the finishing touches on the work we started last Session,” Rep. James Buchanan said.

Both House and Senate versions of the bills started life as a response to a 2019 executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis that created the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection and the position of Chief Resilience Officer within the Department of Environmental Protection. HB 7053 codifies the office and its head position and places it under the purview of the Executive Office of the Governor.

But the measures have grown from formalizing an executive order to taking a stance on climate change and coastal resilience. Last year, Florida established the Resilient Florida Grant Program. That program allowed DEP to provide local governments with grants toward resilience planning and directed the agency to create comprehensive plans and data sets for the state’s flood vulnerability and sea level rise risks.

This year’s bill adds to last year’s legislation by authorizing DEP to disperse money from the grant program to fund pre-construction projects on the local level. It also gives DEP an extra year to compile its statewide flood vulnerability and sea level rise data set. Under the bill, the Department of Transportation also has to develop a resilience plan for the state highway system.

“The bill expands the Resilient Florida grant program to allow small cities and counties to obtain grants for pre-construction activities for projects they submit for the plan,” Busatta Cabrera said. 

Florida’s 1,350-mile coastline faces pressing threats from an encroaching sea. According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Florida is experiencing sea level rise at higher rates than the global average, which themselves have rapidly increased due to climate change. And it’s costly. The Fourth National Climate Assessment estimated Florida could lose $300 billion in coastal property values by 2100. And all that saltwater intrusion could harm the aquifer and Florida’s potable water supplies.

Republican and Democratic members of the House State Affairs Committee praised Busatta Cabrera for her efforts.

“I think that this bill is great,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said. “Thank you for your work and helping us build on the resiliency legislation from last year and really doing what we can to address sea level rise and flood vulnerability. This is great.”

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected].


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