Driving through Pinecrest or Palmetto Bay or the Falls area in the past year, you may have come across numbered teal signs adorning yards across our communities. The number – usually 8, 9 or 10 – isn’t a street address, but rather the number of feet that the home sits above sea level. This art installation is the “Underwater HOA,” the brainchild of acclaimed artist Xavier Cortada. The intention: To remind us of our community’s precarious position when it comes to rising seas.
South Florida is at the very center of the conversation around sea level rise, and that is why we have filed HB 579 and SB 178, bills relating to public financing of construction. This legislation would require that any county or municipality that seeks to use state funds to build in the coastal construction zone must conduct a Sea Level Impact Project (SLIP) study prior to commencing construction.
Before we begin using taxpayer dollars to build along our coast, shouldn’t we want to better understand how changes in sea level may impact a particular building or structure? Shouldn’t we want our local entities being ever-more prepared for sea level rise? Don’t we all want to make sure that the finite resources we have as a state are spent as responsibly as possible?
The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that these SLIP studies:
· Use a scientifically accepted approach in conducting the SLIP study;
· Assess the flooding, inundation, and wave action damage risks relating to the coastal structure over its expected life or 50 years, whichever is less;
· Provide alternatives for the coastal structure’s design and siting, and how such alternatives would impact certain public health and environmental risks as well as the risk and cost associated with maintaining, repairing, and constructing the coastal structure.
Concerns about any marginal cost associated with this legislation should be answered simply: Can we afford to not be prepared?
With the support of environmental groups from across the state, as well as the associations of builders and contractors, HB 579 will continue to make Florida a national leader in environmental policy. And, unfortunately, while our community is seeing the impacts of sea level rise sooner than other parts of the State, Florida can be an example for the rest of the nation on how to implement good, proactive environmental policy.