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DeSantis’ new climate change plan: $270 million for first wave of statewide projects

·4 min read

Florida is set to commit hundreds of millions to adapt to the impacts of climate change — with the promise of much more money on the way.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the “Always Ready Florida” strategy at an afternoon press conference in Oldsmar, near Tampa, on Tuesday. He said the 3-year plan includes $270 million in state money for more than 76 projects around the state.

That money would help build stormwater pumps and living shorelines to resist storm surge, as well as lay utility cables underground and storm-proof important facilities like fire stations, wastewater treatment centers and libraries around the state. It also could go toward buying out flood-prone homes and vacant land that borders sensitive environmental spaces.

“All the projects included in this plan will enhance efforts to protect our coastlines, communities and shores, and that’s very, very important,” DeSantis said.

This $270 million plan still has to be approved by the Legislature in the 2022 session, which means it could always be subject to change, although Republican leadership in the house has signaled support. For now, it’s made up of a list of projects that were initially submitted to the Resilient Florida grant program, the first-ever pot of state money specifically designed to help cities and counties adapt to climate change. The state’s first climate change plan, a 2008 strategy developed under then-Gov. Charlie Crist, did not go anywhere.

DeSantis proposes $1 billion fund to help local governments adapt to climate change

Resilient Florida has an additional $500 million in proposed funding to give out to the more than 500 grant applications still remaining, and these projects don’t need to be approved by the legislature. Jared Williams, DeSantis’ spokesman, said the winners will be announced “soon.”

“This is just one part, there’s going to be a whole host of other projects announced in the near future with a lot more money,” DeSantis said during the Tuesday press conference. “You’re going to end up seeing well over a billion dollars in this over the next few years.”

At the same press conference, DeSantis introduced his new state Chief Resilience Officer, Wesley Brooks. Florida’s first resilience officer, Julai Nesheiwat, left the role after six months for a job in the Trump administration.

South Florida, which requested more money from Resilient Florida than any other region in the state, made up the lion’s share of the newly announced project list. Miami-Dade County alone accounted for 16 of the projects, including money to protect the main library from flooding and hurricanes, install generators at multiple fire stations and fix up Ingram Terrace, the flood-prone affordable housing run by the county.

Miami-Dade’s first road raising project — SW 157th Avenue from SW 42nd to SW 8th Street — also made the list.

Miami Dade’s Chief Resilience Officer James Murley said he hoped that the county would rake in even more grant funding when the Resilient Florida awards are announced.

“We’re excited to see what we understand to be the first round of resilience grants,” he said. “It’s encouraging and we’re hopeful that the legislature will fund this program again in the next fiscal year.”

Miami Beach could score $20 million in funding toward its $67 million road raising and drainage project in the tony First Street neighborhood in South Beach, as well as upgrades for its oldest and most flood-prone fire station.

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Miami’s projects include installing 79 new devices across the city that stop the rising tide from creeping backward up drainage pipes, as well as replacing seawalls in North Grapeland Heights and Edgewater.

Other Miami-Dade area projects included a new pump station in Miami Shores, flood control projects on Surfside’s Abbott Avenue , a new stormwater system for North Bay Village and a land restoration project in Cutler Bay.

Broward County’s projects included several aimed at keeping the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport safe from flooding, storm-proofing fire stations in Oakland Park and Lauderdale Lakes and a pump station in North Lauderdale.

Miami Beach wants to help homeowners adapt to sea level rise with matching grants

The Keys also scored two projects: permitting and design for the road raising project in Monroe County’s Stillwright Point, the neighborhood that infamously flooded for more than 90 days during a particularly rough king tide season, and funding for the first residential road raising project in the Keys, in the Twin Lakes neighborhood.

Pinellas County’s projects include storm hardening for a water treatment facility in Oldsmar, where the Governor gave his press conference, plus a living shoreline in St. Petersburg’s Maximo Park and flood improvements to Bartlett Lake.

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