by Renzo Downey
Feburary 1, 2022
Some lawmakers want to do more than simply codify the state’s resilience efforts.
Sen. Jason Brodeur has filed an amendment fleshing out his bill to address rising sea levels, part of an effort to improve a 2021 law on environmental policy.
During his first week in office in 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on the environment that established the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Brodeur’s bill (SB 1940) would codify a Statewide Office of Resiliency within the Governor’s Office and place the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) as the head of the office. But with Brodeur’s proposed changes to that bill, the one-paged measure would expand to more than 20 pages and include tweaks to state processes within DEP and beyond.
The bill, including Brodeur’s amendment, is scheduled for a hearing in the Sanford Republican’s Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. It would be the proposal’s first of three committee hearings.
The amendment is a follow-up to a bill last year, prioritized by House Speaker Chris Sprowls, that created a coastal resiliency grant program within DEP to respond to rising sea levels. The Resilient Florida Grant Program is stocked with an annual $100 million commitment to tackle sea level rise and mitigation efforts.
In Brodeur’s latest proposed language, the measure would add small cities’ and counties’ projects in the Statewide Flooding and Sea-Level Rise Resilience Plan to the list of projects that can qualify for the Resilient Florida Grant Program. It would also attach drainage districts, flood control districts, and certain special districts to the list of government entities that can apply for funding within the resilience plan.
Additionally, the amendment calls for the Department of Transportation to create a resilience action plan for the State Highway System addressing vulnerabilities around tidal waters, rainfall, storm surge flooding, and sea level rise projections.
DeSantis received bipartisan praise in January 2019 when he issued the executive order tackling environmental issues. Stemming from that order, DeSantis appointed Julia Nesheiwat as the state’s first CRO. After 20 months of uncertainty for the role following Nesheiwat’s departure to be a homeland security adviser to President Donald Trump, DeSantis, in November 2021, appointed Wesley Brooks as CRO.
In December, DeSantis announced $276 million for what he called a proactive approach to combat rising sea levels. Simultaneously, the Governor criticized left-wing ideologies and people who use global warming rhetoric, calling his measure a response to floods and rising sea levels.