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Florida's climate resilience
Photo of Fort Pierce, FL Jetty storm surge by Carolyn Fortuna / CleanTechnica


Can It Be True? Florida’s Climate Resilience Plan Is Real?

If enacted, this bill will expand the requirements of Florida’s Sea-Level Impact Projection (SLIP) studies beyond the current coastal construction zone and into all areas threatened by current and projected sea level rise, not just in areas directly on the coast.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has come out in favor of Florida’s new legislation that advances the prioritization of climate resilience.


The EDF?

Rachel Rhode, manager for EDF’s climate resilient coasts & watersheds program in Florida, commends lawmakers for recognizing the importance of building climate resilience and empowering Florida communities to better combat flood risk and sea level rise. “It’s exciting to see Florida take advantage of additional federal funding opportunities to better prepare all communities throughout the state against the ever-increasing climate impacts,” Rhode explains. “We encourage Florida leaders to continue on this trajectory by making decisions based on science, prioritizing nature-based solutions, and recognizing the complex challenges communities face in the wake of devastating climate impacts.”

General bill HB111, introduced by Rep. Christine Hunschofsky (D) of the Agriculture, Conservation, & Resiliency Subcommittee, outlines the following:

  • Flooding and sea level rise vulnerability studies
  • Revises purposes for which DEP may provide grants under Resilient Florida Grant Program to counties, municipalities, & water management districts
  • Requires state-financed constructors to take specified actions before commencing construction
  • Requires DEP to develop specified sea level impact projection study standard
  • Provides for civil actions, injunctive relief, recovery of certain funds, & enforcement
  • Provides for future repeal of requirements for construction of certain structures in coastal building zone

Remarkably, this legislation that passed out of the House this week without a single “no” vote. There were no amendments and was no debate as members breezed through consideration of the measure.

“We have flooding everywhere, so what my bill does is expand that to wherever there are flooding issues or seasons,” Hunschofsky said before the Legislative Session. “It’s making sure that when you are using government money to build, you’re taking into account everything and not just doing it blindly.”

The bill (HB 111) directs the Resilient Florida Grant program to provide money for local governments to conduct feasibility studies and cover permitting costs for nature-based solutions to the impact of flooding and sea-level rise.

Currently, publicly funded projects within the coastal construction zone are required to perform a Sea Level Impact Projection (SLIP) study before breaking ground. SLIP studies analyze the potential impact of sea level rise and other coastal hazards on coastal construction projects that are funded by the state. These studies are critical to understanding the safety and economic impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding.

But under this new bill, that requirement will expand to projects in all areas threatened by current and projected sea level rise, not just in areas directly on the coast. Moving through the Senate with unanimous House approval, this bill exemplifies a bipartisan effort to build climate and flood resilience in Florida.

Additional enabling legislation authorized the state to be eligible for FEMA’s Safeguarding Tomorrow Revolving Loan Fund program. This now allows Florida to apply for federal funding that will provide local governments with direct low interest loans that reduce risks from natural hazards and disasters. This revolving loan program, intended to reduce the burden of grant applications, has the potential to support building climate resilience, offer opportunities to implement natural infrastructure, address multiple flood risks, and prioritize environmental justice across Florida.

Federal Investment in Florida Resiliency

Of course, it doesn’t hurt Florida legislative action that a whole lotta federal funding is designated for coastlines — and Florida has 825 miles of coastline.

Vice President Harris announced in late April that the Department of Commerce has recommended $78.7 million for projects across Florida to make communities and the economy more resilient to climate change, as part of the Investing in America agenda.

Across Florida, 16 projects will create jobs and boost economic and environmental outcomes for coastal communities. The awards are made under the Biden Administration’s Climate-Ready Coasts initiative funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) with additional funds leveraged from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Climate-Ready Coasts initiative is focused on investing in high-impact projects that create climate solutions by storing carbon; build resilience to coastal hazards such as extreme weather events, pollution, and marine debris; restore coastal habitats that help wildlife and humans thrive; build the capacity of underserved communities and support community-driven restoration; and, provide employment opportunities.

A variety of endeavors is contained in the Climate-Ready Coasts initiative that will benefit Florida.

Coastal zone management: Funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will enable approved coastal programs to protect and restore these ecologically significant habitats, including conserving lands that play a critical role in helping communities become more resilient to natural hazards including storms, flooding, erosion, tsunamis, sea level rise and lake level changes.

Habitat restoration: The goal is to support habitat restoration actions that rebuild productive and sustainable fisheries, contribute to the recovery and conservation of threatened and endangered species, use natural infrastructure to reduce damage from flooding and storms, promote resilient ecosystems and communities, and yield socioeconomic benefits.

Marine debris: The 5-year goals and execution strategy associated with these funds will be used to better understand the marine debris problem, remove legacy debris, and prevent future debris to reduce stress on ecosystem services.

National Estuarine Reserve Research: This will increase the number of acres of coastal ecosystems protected and restored in priority reserve watersheds (including wetlands, corals, and natural shorelines). In turn, the restoration and conservation of these ecosystems will help decrease economic losses from the impacts of coastal hazards, including flooding and climate change, to property and infrastructure.

Coastal Security Fund: The program invests in projects that restore or expand natural features such as coastal marshes and wetlands, dune and beach systems, oyster and coral reefs, forests, coastal rivers and floodplains, and barrier islands that minimize the impacts of coastal flooding on nearby communities.

The Takeaway About Florida’s Climate Resilience

It’s not easy right now to be a Democrat in Florida.

Hunschofsk, who was the mayor of Parkland at the time of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, pleaded with her colleagues this week to keep the minimum age to buy rifles and other “long” guns at age 21, but her majority colleagues voted to scrap the high-profile change. She’s pushed for more specific psychologist licensing, sought to prohibit sexual battery against mentally incapacitated persons, looked to redefine drug paraphernalia for drug testing, wanted enhanced suicide prevention funding, and other socially-minded actions.

The ultra-conservative majority Florida legislature is so controversial right now that legal challenges to its legislation are all but certain, according to the Miami Herald. Republican legislators set aside at least $10 million in legal defense costs for the Governor’s office and various agencies.

Climate action in Florida will always be political. Next will be addressing the lawsuits to sue federal officials over manatee protection.

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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