By Gary Williams, Florida Rural Water Association
When it comes to weather-related and natural disasters in Florida, there are processes and procedures in place to coordinate local, state, regional, and federal efforts before, during, and after an emergency.
In fact, our state has shared best practices in preparedness and proactive resiliency across the country.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature just this year passed comprehensive legislation to make communities more resilient and address sea level rise. Further, it moved the position of Florida Chief Resilience Officer from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to the Executive Office of the Governor. Florida is one of only nine states to have such a position and there is no coordinated resilience effort at the federal level.
The NCARS Act (National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy, S.3516 / H.R.6461), with Florida Congresswoman Maria Elvira-Salazar as a co-sponsor, is the bipartisan federal effort that would help set national flood preparedness and adaptation strategy. It would create the first national chief resilience officer (CRO) within the White House.
And here’s why we need to give this legislation a fighting chance.
Currently, there are at least 17 federal agencies that deal with natural disaster recovery and preparedness plans, programs, and funding, creating waste and redundancy. As of June 2021, more than 15 states, including Florida, have initiated comprehensive resilience planning to help address flood mitigation. Dedicating time to coordinate state and national disaster resilience strategy is essential if we are to manage key resources effectively throughout an emergency.
This federal CRO will be charged with 1) directing a whole-of-government approach to resilience efforts and 2) establishing and leading up to five inter-agency working groups, each with a specific focus.
Within 16 months of the bill’s enactment, and every three years thereafter, the CRO and working groups will submit a report to the President and Congress summarizing federal resilience operations.
The report aims to identify limitations and redundancies, as well as opportunities to enhance collaboration among agencies. The report also will summarize federal funding resources available for resilience and identify ways to ensure that federal money is being distributed effectively and equitably.
Every three years, the CRO and working groups submit a strategy and plan, including updates on relevant science, changes in federal structure, and ways to improve coordination.
The strategy will focus on developing proactive, long-term resilience approaches, prioritizing support for the most vulnerable communities. This strategy will identify national goals and guidance to address climate effects and better support non-federal partners in their efforts to increase resilience.
NCARS also establishes a partner’s council, chaired by the CRO, with representatives from state, local, tribal, territorial governments, NGOs, the private sector, and academia.
Not only are we in favor of this commonsense approach, but NCARS also has the support of nearly 50 other public and private entities based in Florida, including major city and county CROs, mayors and state representatives, regional planning councils, along with 1000 Friends of Florida, Florida League of Cities, Florida Floodplain Managers Association, Florida TaxWatch, Florida Wildlife Federation, Foundation for Florida Environment Protection, Solar United Neighbors of Florida, and the Miami Foundation.
If passed, this bill will benefit Floridians – and all Americans – in the years ahead.
Gary Williams serves as executive director of the Florida Rural Water Association, a nonprofit, non-regulatory professional association, with members consisting of public water and wastewater systems, such as counties, municipalities, associations, districts, mobile home parks, schools, authorities, and others.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.