Florida Gov. DeSantis proposes plan to fight rising seas without any ‘left-wing stuff’

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a series of steps to defend Florida against rising sea levels Tuesday, even as he denounced the use of the term “global warming” as a “pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things.”

The governor submitted 76 projects to the state Legislature to improve drainage, raise sea walls and take other steps to fight flooding across the state. The state would spend about $270 million, with local matches typically required.

“We’re a low-lying state, we’re a storm-prone state, and we’re a flood-prone state,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Oldsmar, just outside Tampa. “And so we worked with the Legislature to say, OK how are we going to address this in a way that’s going to protect Florida’s communities, protect our economic livelihood and make sure we’re doing what we need to do.”

The projects include new pump stations, stormwater sewers, sea walls, canal bank improvements, the elevation of fire stations and other steps to cope with the increased risk of flooding.

They include 10 projects in Broward County, 26 in Miami-Dade County, two in Monroe County and 11 in Palm Beach County. They include flood-control improvements in coastal cities such as Delray Beach and Boca Raton, as well as inland regions like Sunrise, Lauderdale Lakes and Oakland Park.

As his news conference, the governor avoided terms like sea-level rise or climate change. Despite a strong scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that it’s due largely to emissions from industry, power plants, agriculture and vehicles, many Republicans consider it to be either a hoax or a minor problem that’s been exaggerated for political purposes.

Asked by a reporter about global warming, the governor said, “What I’ve found is when people start talking about things like global warming they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways. And so we’re not doing any left-wing stuff.”

Such "left-stuff” includes restrictions on energy production that raise gas prices, he said. DeSantis said the state’s growing population made it more vulnerable to flooding from hurricanes and other causes, and that it was simply common sense to take steps to make Florida more resilient.

“I just think that’s the right thing to do regardless. But be very careful of people trying to smuggle in their ideology; they say support our coastline or they say they support our water or our environment. And maybe they do, but they’re also trying to do a lot of other things.”

Florida is particularly vulnerable to sea levels currently rising about an inch every eight years. Long-time residents of coastal neighborhoods such as Las Olas Isles in Fort Lauderdale and the Lakes in Hollywood have said flooding during high tides has worsened during their lifetimes.

The funding plan is the result of bills signed by the governor in May to take a series of steps to fight sea-level rise, including directing tens of millions of dollars a year to local flood-control projects, establishing a research center at the University of South Florida, conducting a statewide flood risk assessment and preparing a three-year sea-level rise plan.

Shawn Hamilton, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection called the plan “a monumental step to prepare our state for the effects of sea-level rise.”

“This plan will enhance our efforts to protect our inland waterways, coastlines, shores and coral reefs which will serve as invaluable natural defenses to sea level rise,” he said.