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Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Bill Would Give $100 Million A Year To Fight Flooding

maps of florida showing potential flood risk
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
For the view on the right, elevations below 16 feet above sea level have been colored dark blue, and lighter blue indicates elevations below 33 feet. This is an illustration of how Florida's low topography make it vulnerable to flooding

A state committee unanimously approved a bill that includes spending up to $100 million a year on projects to address flooding and sea-level rise and creating a grant program for local governments.

A plan to protect homeowners and businesses from rising seas and flooding brought on by climate change sailed through a Senate committee earlier this week. It would provide $100 million a year for local governments.

Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor is promoting the bill, which he says will protect three-quarters of the state's residents living along the coasts.
The Senate bill'ssponsor is Republican Ray Rodrigues of Estero.

"This bill looks to identify the effects of flooding that are felt across the state, in both coastal and inland communities, and address those threats using a coordinated statewide approach," Rodrigues said.

Rodriguez cited a study saying one-fourth of all properties are at a substantial risk of flooding by 2050.

"Twenty-four-point-three percent of properties in Florida are at a substantial risk of flooding by the year 2050," he said. "Another study showed tidal flooding could result in total property devaluation of between $10 billion and $30 billion by 2030, and between $30 billion and $80 billion by 2050."

The bills would also create the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation at the University of South Florida. It would author an annual report on sea level rise and flooding to the governor and his cabinet.

The bill has support from Audubon Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Jonathan Webber, deputy director of the Florida Conservation Voters, supported the bill but said the Legislature should also consider addresing what causes seas to rise in the first place.

"As the state really begins to address and invest hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on the impact of climate change, I do strongly encourage this body to offer solutions to the causes of climate change, which is undeniably human-produced greenhouse gas emissions," said Webber.

The proposal must get approval from the Appropriations Committee before it could go to the Senate floor.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who proposed a $1 billion, four-year plan to help communities fight rising sea levels, has suggested using some of the new federal coronavirus relief money heading to Florida for the “resiliency” efforts.

DeSantis also earlier proposed issuing bonds for the projects. But House leaders have resisted bonding proposals to avoid long-term debt.

Sprowls’ proposal calls for spending $25 million next fiscal year on the program, with the amount jumping to $100 million a year starting in the 022-2023 fiscal year without issuing bonds. The House version of the bill (HB 7019) has cleared one committee and next goes before the State Affairs Committee.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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