Legislative leaders commit
Florida’s new legislative leaders are signaling an interest in pursuing enhanced disaster management policy through mitigation in the next legislative session that starts March 2. Their focus includes hurricanes and flooding that’s occurring in this current period of rising sea levels.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R- Palm Harbor), in his inaugural address on November 17, had this to say about insurance and hurricanes. “I am reminded of the Latin phrase semper paratus, which means “always ready.” It’s the motto of the United States Coast Guard, and it should be our guiding emergency management principle. In Florida, we understand all too well the devastation caused by hurricanes, the still-fresh wounds inflicted by Michael and Irma, and the memory of Andrew that continues to haunt South Florida. Homeowners have spent 15 years dealing with all the ways the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 changed Florida’s insurance markets. Yet somehow, we always seem to be responding or reacting to storms. We need to shift our perspective, move beyond our current State Hazard Mitigation Strategy, and develop a strategic plan that ensures that we are prepared for all foreseeable contingencies.”
Both Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) talked about establishing work programs – similar to the Florida Department of Transportation five-year work plans for infrastructure projects – to address the impacts of rising sea levels and tidal flooding in coastal communities. “We need to identify our most vulnerable areas, where the need is,” Simpson was quoted in the News Service of Florida. “And it’s not like we don’t have engineers that can tell us that around the state and develop a priority list.”
Sprowls said he’s open to using existing environmental spending for broader purposes. “We need to stop fixating on land purchases as the sole measure of conservation and embrace the spectrum of priorities from beach renourishment to septic tank conversion to flood mitigation,” he said.
NOAA’s report “Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States,” says that sea levels along portions of Florida’s coastlines are rising by about a third of an inch every year now. There are low-lying communities in parts of Miami Beach and New Smyrna Beach that are already impacted with minor street flooding occurring on perfectly sunny days. The 2017 report was done in conjunction with the South Florida Water Management District and other agencies.
LMA Newsletter of 11-30-20