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The Florida Roundup
The Florida Roundup is a live, weekly call-in show with a distinct focus on the issues affecting Floridians. Each Friday at noon, listeners can engage in the conversation with journalists, newsmakers and other Floridians about change, policy and the future of our lives in the sunshine state.Join our hosts, veteran journalists from our partner public radio stations: WLRN’s Tom Hudson, broadcasting from Miami and WJCT’s Melissa Ross, broadcasting from Jacksonville.

The governor's wish-list for resilience spending is big on flooding, not climate change

A pedestrian walkway along the Miami River is flooded during a king tide, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Miami. Low-lying neighborhoods in South Florida are vulnerable to the seasonal flooding caused by king tides. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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AP
A pedestrian walkway along the Miami River is flooded during a king tide, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Miami. Low-lying neighborhoods in South Florida are vulnerable to the seasonal flooding caused by king tides. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Gov. DeSantis wants to spend more than a quarter of a billion dollars on what he calls resilience projects. But will they protect communities against the threat from climate change?

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to spend more than a quarter of a billion dollars on what he calls resilience projects. The state money is designed to attract local spending on stormwater drainage, water pumps and fire stations. And there’s more spending proposals in his overall budget released this week.

"We’re proposing to do [a] hundred million more in the upcoming budget. So you’re going to end up seeing probably well over a billion dollars in this over the next couple of years, which is going to be really really good," said DeSantis this week.

When the governor announced his resilience project spending list he avoided talking about climate change. And he dismissed criticism that the spending does not address the causes of climate change.

"What I found is, people, when they start talking about things like global warming, they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways," he said Tuesday.

"I'm encouraged by to see a significant level of funding to be directed towards resilience related projects," said Tom Frazer, dean of the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida. Frazer is the former chief science officer of the state of Florida. He was not involved in forming the spending plan announced this week.

Of the 76 projects under the banner of the "Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan," 17 of them are drainage or stormwater work.

And that applies to Florida Rep. Tom Fabricio, R-Miramar. He sits on the House Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

"I remember in November 2020, when when Tropical Storm Eta hit, we had a heck of a lot of flooding in my area. We had lots of flooding in Miramar. We had lots of flooding in Miami Lakes and throughout the community," said Fabricio. "These are issues that need to be addressed."

Two-thirds of the projects on this first wave of wishes are in the four South Florida counties: Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe.

In his announcement this week, DeSantis framed the spending as proactive investments in infrastructure protecting parts of the state.

"Be very careful of people trying to smuggle in their ideology," he said. "They say they support our coastline, our water, our environment — and maybe they do — but they're also trying to do a lot of other things."

For Fabricio, he said the focus on local flooding instead of contributions to climate change makes sense for his constituents.

"I think a sound approach to resolving the drainage issues that we have at hand is by spending money on reducing the drainage issues. I think the folks in Miami Lakes are very happy that we are addressing the flooding issues in Miami Lakes. I think the folks in Doral and a Medley are very happy that we're addressing these issues because they're absolutely at hand and they're required to be resolved," Fabricio said.

Frazer said that while serving as the chief science officer, he found state agencies recognizing the cause of increased climate risk.

"My experience is that the people acknowledge that climate change is really the consequence of increased carbon emissions and that's a human source. I think what we're really trying to deal with," Frazer said.

State lawmakers still have to approve the governor's wish-list during next month's legislative session. The state's grant program, Resilient Florida, still has hundreds of proposed projects.

The program has hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to a law signed in May.
Copyright 2021 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.