Florida Senate Bill 178: An Act Relating to Public Financing of Construction Projects

On March 11, 2020, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 178 (Florida Statute § 161.551) that establishes new rules and enforcement mechanisms for state-financed coastal construction projects. According to the law, “state-financed constructors” are public entities that manage or commission “a construction project using funds appropriated from the state.” The purpose of the law is to ensure that (1) projects funded by public monies can better withstand coastal flooding and will not exacerbate flooding impacts on surrounding communities; and (2) project managers consider all design options and alternatives in the face of sea-level rise. The law requires that constructors prepare a sea-level impact projection (SLIP) study for state-funded coastal construction projects. The standards for SLIP studies will be developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) through a rulemaking.

DEP’s rule will be effective one year after it is finalized and it will not be retroactive (e.g., it will only apply to projects that have not begun by the time the rule is finalized). Under the law, project applicants must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • First, they must apply a natural sciences and construction design approach that is “systematic, interdisciplinary, and scientifically acceptable” and must consider available science and common industry standards.
  • Second, state-financed constructors must assess risks relating to sea-level rise, flooding (including the average annual chance of major flood damage), inundation, storm increases, and wave damage over the life of the structure (or out to a future period of 50 years, whichever is less). In addition to these natural risks, the assessment should also include an analysis of environmental and public safety risks that may arise in the case of damage, such as pollutant leaks or explosion, to the coastal structure proposed to be built.
  • Third, based on the evidence of these risks, the SLIP study must include design alternatives that could be used to “mitigate, adapt to, or reduce” those risks and a discussion of how these alternatives will affect building and maintenance costs as well as the risk calculations described above. 

If multiple structures are proposed to be built as part of the same project, one SLIP study may be used for the entire project.

Once DEP develops the standards that will apply to SLIP studies, constructors of state-financed projects within the coastal building zone will be required to conduct such a study, submit it to DEP, and wait at least 30 days from the date that DEP publishes the SLIP study on its website before starting construction. If a constructor fails to conduct a SLIP study, DEP may enforce its rule by instituting a civil action seeking to ensure compliance, cease the construction, or recover the public funds spent.

Publication Date: March 11, 2020 (effective July 1, 2021)

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