The state’s sandy shores have a powerful ally in the Florida Legislature.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala announced Friday he filed legislation aimed at saving the state’s beaches from continued erosion. The proposal (SB 1590) would, among other things, dedicate a minimum of $50 million a year to beach nourishment and inlet management restoration projects in Florida.
The proposal also adds transparency and accountability measures to the use of state funds; directs the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a new three-year work plan for beach repair, similar to the Department of Transportation’s five-year work plan; and refocuses attention on effective sand management at the state’s inlets.
“We’ve got tangible evidence that the health of our beaches is a big return on our investment. Everyone acknowledges that, even the House acknowledges it,” said Latvala, who announced the legislation at Lowdermilk Park in Naples. “We’re fighting over some of the other economic development programs, but no one’s fighting over this. So let’s at least get this done right.”
While Latvala’s district includes between 25 to 30 miles of beaches, there was a reason behind his decision to unveil his legislation a few hours south of his home turf. He attended the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association Convention in Naples back in September, and committed to do what he could protect Florida’s beaches. A spokesman for Latvala said the senator wanted to return to the community to make good on his commitment.
But that wasn’t the only reason Latvala decided to head to the Paradise Coast to announced the legislation. Latvala said the reason he decided to announce in Naples was because of the “really outstanding effort the Naples Daily News has put forward on this issue and bringing this issue to our attention.”
In November, the Naples Daily News released a four-part series called “Shrinking Shores” looking at beach nourishment programs and how much money the state has set aside to re-nourish beaches. The report found that state lawmakers have some years failed to deliver money promised under state law, leaving beaches vulnerable to erosion.
Rep. Kathleen Peters, a South Pasadena Republican, introduced the House companion measure.
“For years, I have expressed the importance of taking care of our beaches,” said Peters. “This bill will make sure we prioritize coastal projects that need our attention and ensure our state appropriately manages one of our greatest economic drivers.”