Bill To Create Fla. Sea-Level Rise Task Force Passes First Committee

Feb 16, 2021

From local planning councils to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, different agencies are making their own sea-level rise projections. But they’re not all the same. 

That means when governments make planning decisions, they’re not all basing their choices on the same information.

Under a bill by Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point), the state would create its own official projection to be used for government-funded projects.

“The goal of this task force is to help recommend building practices, planning practices in dealing with sea-level rise,” LaMarca said.

He said Florida is a very exposed state when it comes to storms and sea-level rise. If people want to build along the coast, they need to determine if structures like higher seawalls and housing foundations are necessary.

Department of Environmental Protection officials said their office has already begun looking into creating its own sea-level rise projection for the state.

LaMarca's proposal would also create a statewide office of resiliency to be run by the state’s chief resiliency officer.

But Johnathan Webber with Florida Conservation Voters said he hopes that office's scope won't be limited to just sea level rise.

“Climate change is much broader of a problem than just looking at coastal flooding and sea-level rise,” Webber says. “It’s going to have some profound impacts to the way everybody lives and works in the state of Florida and we need a real holistic kind of examination to all those problems.”

Webber said he’s glad LaMarca’s proposal and its Senate companion are moving forward, but he hopes lawmakers dig deeper into climate change issues. Number one on his list is reducing greenhouse gases.

Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Meyers) agrees the measure isn't all encompassing. He's sponsoring the Senate version.

“I think this is the first step, but it’s an important first step," Rodrigues said.

The Senate version of the bill passed its first hearing Monday.