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Elizabeth Djinis
By Elizabeth Djinis October 21, 2022

DeSantis boosts flood resilience aid but is less decisive on sustainable growth

Florida's sea levels have risen by up to 8 inches since 1950, according to, and more than 2 million of the state's properties are at some risk of severe flooding over the next 30 years. September's Category 4 hurricane, Ian, is estimated to have caused between $53 billion and $74 billion in insured losses, ranking as one of the most expensive storms in state history. 

The risk for catastrophic hurricane damage is likely why Ron DeSantis included addressing rising seas among his 2018 gubernatorial campaign goals. He emphasized "smart growth and resilience to rising sea level for South Florida."

"We must plan ahead to protect and sustain South Florida and ensure this area of the state remains vibrant," DeSantis' campaign site read. "Ron DeSantis will work with local governments to prioritize sustainable growth and flood mitigation efforts and rising sea levels." 

It's important to address this promise in three sections — sustainable growth, flood mitigation and addressing rising seas; the three are not synonymous. 

In general, Florida has put more money behind these efforts. Under DeSantis, the state has earmarked more than $1 billion for resilience against sea level rise and flood infrastructure efforts — a similar state program dedicated only $5 million in funding to grants, said Kate Wesner, the Florida director for the American Flood Coalition, a nonprofit group seeking to mitigate flooding and sea level rise. Florida's 2021-22 budget allocated more than $640 million to resilience; the 2022-23 budget earmarked more than $500 million.

Some of the largest legislative efforts for flood resilience include 2022's SB 1940, which created a permanent statewide resilience office and chief officer, making Florida one of only 10 states with that title, Wesner said. It also required Florida's Department of Transportation to create a resilience action plan for the state's highways.

DeSantis' primary work has come through Resilient Florida, a state-funded program allowing local governments to apply for funding to fortify "inland waterways, coastlines and shores." The grant initiative was created as part of 2021's Senate Bill 1954, which allocated $29 million for its establishment and planning. (In 2021, the state created its first Statewide Flooding Resilience plan, which was also set forth in SB 1954. DeSantis' office pointed to this initiative as one of his major achievements toward this promise.)

Since then, Florida has awarded more than $420 million to local governments in at least 25 counties that sought grants to bolster their coastal areas and places at risk of storm surge and flooding. 

"Under Governor DeSantis' bold vision and leadership, the state of Florida is leading the way on resilience so that our inland and coastal communities are better prepared and more prosperous," state Chief Resilience Officer Wes Brooks said in a press release

Grant recipients have ranged from large, populous counties, such as Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, to small, beachfront cities such as Key Colony Beach and Treasure Island. 

Broward County agencies have received seven grants totaling almost $30 million, Broward County's chief resilience officer, Jennifer Jurado, said. Projects included an $18 million grant to harden seawalls along the intracoastal highway by Hollywood North Beach and helping with "stormwater management and drainage needs" at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. 

"The state has taken a much more active role in bringing attention and supporting local governments in addressing current and future conditions flood risk," Jurado said, particularly citing the grant program and the state's Sea-Level Impact Projection, aka SLIP, study tool.

The creation of the state's SLIP resource and the requirement that it be used may be DeSantis' largest contribution to sustainable growth. Based on a Florida state law passed in 2020, any state-financed construction project of a coastal structure must have a sea-level impact projection study completed before construction starts

But DeSantis has not brought back Florida's Department of Community Affairs, which was removed under former Gov. Rick Scott. This office was in charge of monitoring construction in the state and was one way to control what was built. 

DeSantis also signed into law 2019's HB 7103, which made it harder for Floridians to challenge projects that went against a county's growth plan

This promise must be broken into two parts. DeSantis did increase state dollars for local resiliency projects, especially considering the Resilient Florida Grant program. But he was less decisive when it came to sustainable growth, and signed into law legislation that might make it harder to challenge potential developments. We rate this promise Compromise.

Our Sources

SeaLevelRise.Org, Florida's Sea Level is Rising

Risk Factor, Does Florida have risk?

National Environment Satellite Data and Information Service, Hurricane Ian's Path of Destruction, October 4, 2022

Email interview with Kate Wesner, American Flood Coalition, October 7, 2022

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Resilient Coastlines Program Grants

Email interview with Dawn Shirreffs, Environmental Defense Fund Florida state director, October 11, 2022

Office of the Governor, Governor Ron DeSantis Announces First Ever Statewide Flooding Resilience Plan, December 8, 2021

Office of the Governor, Governor Ron DeSantis Announces More Than $500 Million Building Upon His Historic Commitment to Enhancing Community Resiliency, June 8, 2022

Florida Senate, SB 1940, Filed January 10, 2022

Florida Senate, SB 1940 Bill Analysis, Published February 25, 2022

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Resilient Florida Program

Florida Senate, SB 1954, Filed on March 1, 2021

Office of the Governor, Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Bill to Further Strengthen Florida's Resiliency Efforts, May 12, 2021

Office of the Governor, Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Award of Nearly $20 Million for 98 Projects Through the Resilient Florida Grant Program, May 3, 2022

Office of the Governor, Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Award of More Than $404 Million for 113 Projects Through the Resilient Florida Grant Program, February 1, 2022

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Sea-Level Impact Projection Study Tool

The 2022 Florida Statutes, Public financing of construction projects within the coastal building zone

Florida Department of Community Affairs, Office of Building Codes & Standards

Florida Senate, HB 7103, Filed March 25, 2019

1,000 Friends of Florida, Restoring Citizen Rights, March 2, 2020

Email interview, Jeremy Redfern, Deputy Press Secretary, Executive Office of the Governor, Oct. 14, 2022

Office of Governor Ron DeSantis, Governor Ron DeSantis Announces First Ever Statewide Flooding Resilience Plan, December 8, 2021

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