Plus, the new building code & Lake O repairs
A proposed super-boost to Florida’s highway projects funding, a new state building code is on the way, Lake Okeechobee’s protective dike is now officially fixed, and Florida’s orange crop has set another dubious record. It’s all in this week’s Environment & Engineering Digest.
Highway Funding: Part of the Governor’s proposed $114.8 billion state budget for next fiscal year includes $7 billion to accelerate completion of 20 highway projects. The projects are already approved and have been waiting to be added into FDOT’s existing work program. If approved by the legislature, $4 billion would come from the state’s general revenue surplus, another $131 million annually would be redirected to the State Transportation Work Program, with another $3 billion leveraged through FDOT “innovative financing tools” over the next four years. “Expediting these projects will bring them to completion more than a decade ahead of schedule and ease congestion across the state,” the Governor said. FDOT said the projects will provide a more resilient transportation infrastructure “critical to the integrity of roadways and corridors, especially during severe weather events such as hurricanes.”
New Building Code: The Florida Building Commission has announced it will release the 8th edition of the Florida Building Code this year. Commission representatives told a recent meeting of the Senate Community Affairs Committee that this new edition will replace the 7th edition that went into effect at the end of 2020. They emphasized that although the code is a mandate, local officials are allowed to adopt stricter standards and interpretations, which allows individual communities to incorporate a more stringent code, without endangering its residents. They also said that damage assessments of homes impacted by Hurricane Ian in Ft. Myers Beach made it apparent that homes built before the current building code were devastated, whereas the one coastal home built in 2020 sustained damages but maintained its building integrity.
Lake Okeechobee Repairs: The U.S. Corps of Engineers has completed repairs of the massive dike atop Lake O ahead of schedule and under budget. The Herbert Hoover Dike project was finished in 18 years, three years ahead of schedule, and at a cost of $1.5 billion, a savings of $300 million over the original estimate. The 143-mile dike was built after the deadly 1928 hurricane caused the lake to flood, killing an estimated 2,500 people. Updates were made in the 1950’s but by the 1990’s, the dike’s structural integrity was found at risk. The dike’s repair means the lake’s level can now be kept higher, reducing discharges that over recent years have carried harmful nutrients to both the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, contributing to blue-green algae blooms.
Florida’s Orange Woes: Fresh Plaza reports the state’s orange crop production is projected to fall to historic lows in 2023, with the USDA predicting 18 million boxes will enter the retail market, Florida’s lowest orange output since 1937. That’s an estimated 56% drop in Florida’s orange exports year-over-year, while peak orange production sits at 244 million boxes. A crop freeze, Hurricane Ian and the ongoing citrus greening disease are all blamed for forcing many Florida growers to downsize or close their operations.
LMA Newsletter of 2-6-23