Welcome back to the Impact Zone, Surfrider’s series dedicated to all things legislative session for Florida’s ocean, beaches and waves. This week wrapped up the final committee meetings before the kick-off of regular session. We are counting down the days until the regular session kicks off on March 7th

Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee

The committee considered three bills during its meeting. Related to Surfrider’s clean water initiative and priorities, there was a presentation on the proposed onsite sewage treatment and disposal (aka septic system) and stormwater rule ratification. Triggered by the passage of SB712 (Clean Waterways Act), DEP was directed to draft and adopt rules related to permitting and remediation for septic systems and for stormwater permitting, redevelopment, operations and maintenance. The legislature voted in favor of ratification of the proposed OSTDS requirements. While it is important that new rules aimed at addressing key sources of nutrient pollution to ensure clean water for all are adopted, Surfrider has some concerns regarding how these rules have drafted thus far. Following the stormwater rulemaking, we have concerns about both its strength an efficacy and clarity over where DEP has accounted for public comments in the final rule. We hope that these concerns will be highlighted as this bill moves through committees through session.

Senate Select Committee on Resiliency

The agenda for the final Senate committee meeting on resiliency was loaded with agency presentations focused on updates for the Wastewater Grant Program and Resilient Florida Programs. These presentations have already been made in the relevant House committees, and yet the achievements and milestones of the Resilient Florida program are important for the future of coasts and climate in Florida. The emphasis on nature-based solutions by the office and its projects should not be understated as the number of natural and green infrastructure projects grow across the state. Surfrider looks forward to supporting nature-based solutions to support Florida coasts as the session kicks off.

House Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency + Recovery

Building upon the presentations in the Senate, the House committee focused on resiliency heard from Chief Resilience Officer, Dr. Wes Brooks. While Dr. Brooks has made this presentation already during session, it is important to note in the wake of the recent hurricane season:

  • Natural infrastructure provided real flood mitigation benefits
  • Preserving natural and working landscapes is a critical insurance policy for future growth and potential climate impacts
  • Florida’s new, coordinated approach to supporting local communities in reducing flood vulnerability and enhancing resilience is critical to generating and preserving the economic activity and wealth necessary to weather and adapt to future risks

It is heartening to hear the clear commitment and buy-in by agencies and the administration to harness the power of Florida’s natural features to build resilience. Given the challenges the state faces in the wake of recent hurricanes and future climate impacts, nature-based solutions must be executed in conjunction with policy that protects and strengthens coastal permitting and construction, Florida.

That marks a wrap on Florida’s committee weeks for the 2023 session. Check-in with us for more updates as legislative session kicks off and we track the good, bad and ugly coming out of Tallahassee in the weeks to come.