Public construction in Florida could require sea level study

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Public construction projects in Florida’s coastal areas could soon require a study on how sea level could affect them, under a bill sent to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday.

The bill unanimously passed by the House would require a sea level study before public construction projects using state money can begin in coastal zones.

“Seventy-five percent of our constituents live in coastal counties and it is not lost on any of us that there’s a very delicate relationship between our communities and the environment,” said Republican Rep. Vance Aloupis, who sponsored the legislation. “This is a first step, but I think this is a first step that will allow our state to lead the nation on environmental policy.”

Florida is one of, if not the most, vulnerable states to sea level rise. The state has about 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometers) of coastline and much of the state has a low elevation.

“Three quarters of Florida is surrounded by water,” said Democratic Rep. Delores Johnson. “We are beautiful but fragile.”

Other Democrats also praised the legislation.

“We are on the cusp of crisis in this country when it comes to making decisions around climate change,” said Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani. “We have so much more work to do, and I’m excited because I do think we’re beginning to talk about climate change more. Our governor has been more vocal on issues impacting sea level rise.”

Eskamani added that it is important to prepare for sea level rise because the state’s water resources play such a huge role in tourism.

“This issue goes beyond just an altruistic desire to protect Mother Earth,” Eskamani said. “This is also about our economy.”