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Florida celebrates sea level rise planning tool after years ‘behind the curve’

A recent law requires builders to think about climate change for some publicly funded projects.

One year after the Florida Legislature passed a bill considered its first direct confrontation of climate change in years, the state is moving closer to making the policy’s promises a reality.

The Department of Environmental Protection is crafting a rule that will lay out a standard for considering sea level rise before starting construction on some publicly funded projects along the coast. It is supposed to take effect July 1, and agency officials said this week they aim to hone a draft version by April 1.

“The whole idea is to raise the floor, and the floor on planning was absolutely nothing,” said José Javier Rodríguez, a former state senator from Miami who pushed the original legislation.

Department of Environmental Protection secretary Noah Valenstein said in a meeting last month that the measure will mark the first time Florida sends “a uniform signal across the state of what sea level rise projections should be used over what time periods.”

The rule will require Sea Level Impact Projection (or SLIP) studies to be finished before builders break ground on projects that receive state funding and fall in specific areas especially vulnerable to flooding near the shore. It will cover structures like houses, parking garages, piers, water treatment plants and bridges, but not smaller items like gazebos and beach walkovers, or seawalls and breakwaters meant to combat erosion.