Images of flooded streets and homes on Miami Beach have become an all-too-frequent reality for those of us in South Florida. And, while we have yet to see equally-similar situations in other parts of Miami-Dade County, sea level and flood projections show that each of us should be concerned about our own communities.
The relationship between our communities – Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, Miami, Coconut Grove, Miami Beach – and the environment is both beautiful and delicate. For far too long, we’ve appreciated the beauty of that relationship without fully appreciating the delicate balance.
In the June 29 Miami Herald article “Is your property a flood risk?,” new data shows that flood risk is increasing across Miami-Dade County. In communities like Palmetto Bay, 75 percent of homes are at flood risk according to Flood Factor, with close to 4,500 homes falling into the category of major to extreme risk. In the short term, this will continue to result in higher insurance premiums – a major issue with which many of my constituents and our family are personally dealing. In the longer term, our communities could see a decrease in home values – and even-more challenging water issues.
This past legislative session, in partnership with State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, we passed the most significant sea-level legislation in Florida’s history. A first step, no doubt, but legislation that will require serious action from our state and municipalities as we continue to build in the Coastal Construction Zone. With the full support of Florida’s builders and contractors, municipalities using state funds to build in the Coastal Construction Zone must now complete a Sea Level Impact Projection (SLIP) study prior to construction. What does this mean? Any construction using state funds by government entities must fully take into consideration the longer-term impact of sea-level rise – and plan accordingly.
Should this be celebrated? Absolutely. Is it enough? Absolutely not.
So, what should Florida being doing next?
Several important steps should be taken, at the state level, to develop the framework to deal with sea level rise and flood risk. And, while many of us serving in Tallahassee continue to discuss ideas and policies, I share just four from the American Flood Coalition:
1. Establish a standing committee on flooding and sea level rise that establishes meaningful and clear objectives to help guide state policy.
2. Provide Florida’s lawmakers with a statewide data center for flood risk to help guide effective flood and resiliency policy.
3. Create a loan fund for resiliency to support local infrastructure and water quality projects.
4. Assess statewide infrastructure for resiliency to better understand the necessary amount of federal investment to ensure Florida can proceed into the future fully prepared.
Floridians – especially those of us living in coastal communities – must continue to push for comprehensive resiliency and flood policy. The bipartisan passage of last year’s “sea level impact projection” bill shows that there is a very real opportunity to address many issues that, heretofore, went unaddressed.
The risk to our communities is not hypothetical. It is very real. But, through a continued collaboration – amongst federal, state, and local stakeholders – Florida can become a national leader in resiliency policy. And, as many have said, “As Florida goes, so goes the nation.”
Rep. Vance Aloupis represents District 115 in the Florida House of Representatives and is the CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida.