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

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

Sunrise on the Smathers beach - Key West, Florida
Sunrise on the Smathers beach - Key West, Florida

Florida could soon have official state projections for how sea-level rise and flooding could impact the state’s coastline.

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 says.

He says 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 sea walls and housing foundations are necessary.

Department of Environmental Protection officials say 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 says 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 says 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 Myers) 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 says.

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