| Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Hears Bills on Surface Water, Sea Level Rise, Saltwater Intrusion, and More
|Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (Chair, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral)), heard several bills on Tuesday – in addition to SB 0880 – about dredge and fill exemptions, sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, and port canal dredging.
Surface Water Management ExemptionsSB 0910, Management and Storage of Surface Waters, by Sen. Burton (R-Lakeland) was voted on favorably in the committee. The bill exempts loosely defined “habitat creation, restoration, and enhancement” activities on agricultural and government land from laws governing management and storage of surface waters. In addition, the bill only requires a 30-day notification to DEP and water management districts prior to beginning activities, rather than the currently required approval from districts.This bill, as written, does not allow for sufficient oversight of loss of wetlands, or dredge and fill activities. Audubon will be advocating to include guardrails to ensure these projects benefit Florida’s natural resources, rather than serve as a shortcut around important environmental protections. The House companion, HB 371, was filed by Rep. Killibrew (R-Winter Haven).
Sea Level Rise
Flooding and Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Studies, SB 1170, by Sen. Calatayud (R-Miami), builds on existing law that requires a Sea Level Rise Impact Projection (SLIP) study for publicly funded projects to evaluate the impact of sea level rise on construction. This bill goes a step further and requires a SLIP study for any publicly funded projects built on the coast or inland if they can be impacted by sea level rise and are in an at-risk area. Entities responsible for completing these studies must also consider mitigation measures to reduce this risk so infrastructure is built to withstand storms. This bill will help ensure that taxpayer funds are spent on infrastructure with long-term resiliency.The bill passed favorably through the committee. The House companion was filed by Rep. Hunchofsky and also passed its committee vote in the Agriculture, Conservation, and Resiliency Committee this week.
SB 0734, Saltwater Intrusion Vulnerability Assessments, filed by Sen. Polsky (D-Boca Raton), builds on SB 954 passed in 2021, which authorized local governments to form regional resilience compacts to plan for the resilience needs of communities.
Many of our coastal communities are facing saltwater intrusion as a result of sea level rise. The bill requires the state’s 35 coastal communities (using grant funds from DEP) to complete saltwater vulnerability assessments by July 1, 2024 and to provide these reports to DEP and the water management districts to complement ongoing community vulnerability assessments. These assessments will allow the state to improve planning for community water supply needs in the face of changing climate. The bill passed with unanimous support.
Deep-water Port Dredging
SB 1072, Dredging and Beach Restoration Projects, by Sen. Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral), passed its committee vote this week.
In order to minimize damage to coral reefs and marine life during dredging projects, the bill would require dredging projects for deep-water ports to complete an analysis to determine the adverse impacts of the activity on the natural habitat as a condition of maintenance dredging permits issued by DEP. This bill attempts to improve on the current requirements for damage assessments for sand dredging.
The House companion HB 979, was filed by Rep. Gossett-Seideman (R-Highland Beach) and has been referred to the House Water Quality and Water Supply Treatment Subcommittee.