Florida Senate considers task force to address sea-level rise


A car drives through flooded streets in Miami - PHOTO VIA B137/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Photo via B137/Wikimedia Commons
  • A car drives through flooded streets in Miami
A request by Gov. Ron DeSantis to establish a statewide office focused on the impact of rising sea levels was approved Monday by a Senate committee.

The Infrastructure and Security Committee backed a proposal (SPB 7016) that would create the Statewide Office of Resiliency within the executive branch. The proposal also would establish a Sea-Level Rise Task Force to make recommendations about Florida’s 1,350 miles of coastline and the relatively low elevations of the state that are vulnerable to coastal flooding from sea-level rise, storm surge and heavy rainfall.

Committee Chairman Tom Lee, who credited DeSantis with the “bold pivot in public policy,” said the state needs to know where the coastline will be as plans advance for roads, bridges, residential developments and other infrastructure. “We’re putting billions of dollars into the infrastructure of the state every year,” said Lee, R-Thonotosassa.

“It seems like we ought to have some sense and some indication of where we might be relative to our current tide levels 50 years from now or 40 years from now.” DeSantis, who in August named Julie Nesheiwat as the state’s first chief resilience officer, called for creation of the statewide resiliency office.
A Senate staff analysis said the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact Sea Level Rise Work Group has projected Southeast Florida could see sea-level rise from 1 to nearly 3 feet over the next 40 years, while the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel estimates waters in that region going up 1 to 2.5 feet in 30 years.

“In the U.S., sea level rise and flooding threaten an estimated $1 trillion in coastal real estate value, and analyses estimate that there is a chance Florida could lose more than $300 billion in property value by 2100,” the staff analysis said.

Besides Nesheiwat, the task force would include Department of Environmental Protection Chief Science Officer Thomas Frazer and appointees from the governor’s office, the House speaker, the Senate president, the Department of Transportation, the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.