ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls has introduced legislation that calls for the state to invest $100 million per year into mitigation sea-level rise and flooding.
The series of bills, which have been dubbed "Always Ready," would not only have the state commit millions of dollars to tackle these issues, but also create a grant program to aid local municipalities in combatting their own risks and vulnerabilities. Also included in the legislative package would be a yearly statewide assessment to identify areas that are most at risk - the first time Florida would conduct such research.
Lawmakers backing the project would also create a "flood-hub" for research and innovation at the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus.
In another proposal within the series of measures, tax breaks would be provided to homeowners who choose to raise their properties to increase their chances against flooding.
Florida is home to seven of the ten cities that stand to have the largest property losses at risk from flooding. A study from the First Street Foundation found that almost one million residential properties in Florida were at risk of flooding, creating a collective loss of $8 billion this year.
The sweeping piece of legislation is a change of pace for Florida. The state as a whole has made very little headway when it comes to addressing sea-level rise and flooding, leaving cities and counties to find their own solutions.
However, environmentalists feel the speaker's proposal does not go far enough in addressing the cause of sea-level rise -- climate change.
In a statement, Yoca Arditi-Rocha, Executive Director of the CLEO Institute, said, unless the state proposes solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, tackling sea-level rise will always be "reactionary."
"The climate crisis is an existential threat to the state of Florida which will continue to impact us much more severely," Arditi-Rocha said. "Our leaders must take the necessary steps to not only address these impacts but more importantly, acknowledge and address the root cause of this problem."
"No matter how much money the state invests in flooding and infrastructure, we cannot adapt ourselves out of climate change," Jonathan Webber, Deputy Director of Florida Conservation Voters, said in a statement.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story indicated the incorrect loss number for Florida. It is $8 billion not $8 million.
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