By Kevin Deutsch
A new bill introduced by Representative Christine Hunschofsky (D-Parkland) would mandate that sea level impact studies be performed on all state-funded infrastructure projects at risk of damage from rising waters.
House Bill 1077 aims to tackle the issue of “understated flood risk to coastal and inland communities due to rising sea levels” by “expand[ing] the footprint in which Sea-Level Impact Projection (SLIP) studies must be performed,” Hunschofsky’s office said in a written statement announcing the legislation.
Tidal flooding, worsening storm surge associated with rising sea levels, rising groundwater, and aging flood control systems are all increasing the danger of flooding to inland communities in Broward County and across South Florida, according to the announcement.
As groundwater rises, rainwater from Florida’s inland communities will not drain out to sea as easily, experts say. Instead, water will back up into the region’s western communities with potentially disastrous consequences.
“There is a misconception that sea-level rise is only increasing flood risk right near the coast. That is not the case,” said Hunschofsky. “Many of our western communities may be at greater risk in the near-term than our coastal communities. This legislation acknowledges that and ensures our infrastructure is prepared for climate change.”
Companion legislation sponsored by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) is pending in the Florida Senate.
“This bill just makes fiscal sense. If we are going to spend taxpayer dollars, we owe it to our constituents to make sure that investments will be protected from flooding,” Rodriguez said.
The bills would modify the locations in which the SLIP studies must be performed under state law, expanding the mandate from the current coastal building zone to “areas at risk due to sea level rise.”
The legislation, which directly acknowledges the threat of rising groundwater, would also require a list of flood mitigation efforts as part of the infrastructure design process.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.