Florida Coastal Policy Update (2009)

Issue 1, 2009 Articles:

* CCC Prepares for Legal Action over Bottom Longline Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico
* Florida Coastal Policy Update

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Florida Coastal Policy Update

By Gary Appelson

Ray Mojica/Brevard County EELS Program.

CCC continues to be involved in an array of issues affecting sea turtles in Florida. By building partnerships and advocating for innovate policies, CCC strives to enhance the health and protection of Florida’s beaches, dunes, and near shore reefs utilized by sea turtles.

Green Lodge Program
In 2004, Florida established the Green Lodging Program (Program) in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The purpose of the Program is to recognize facilities that incorporate the “green lodging” concept into their businesses and meet specific objectives to conserve and protect Florida’s natural resources, reduce waste and prevent pollution. Additional incentives for “going green” were introduced by the Governor in 2008, requiring state agencies to contract with Green Lodging certified hotels for conferences and meetings. Unfortunately, the Program does not currently recognize hotels with design features intended to protect Florida’s wildlife. For example, the Program does not recognize hotels that incorporate “sea turtle friendly lighting” strategies, such as redirecting light sources away from the beach or utilizing “black out” window shades at night during turtle nesting season in order to avoid disorienting nesting sea turtles or hatchlings. CCC recently attended the annual Green Lodging Conference and delivered a presentation on the need to include wildlife-friendly lighting strategies in the Program’s certification process. CCC hopes the program will also reward and recognize lodging facilities that do incorporate polices and building design features to protect marine turtles and other wildlife. There are many beachside hotels in Florida that already work to protect sea turtles and the nesting beach. These actions deserve “green” recognition just as much as the installation of low-flow shower heads. CCC is working with DEP and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to incorporate wildlife protection into the Program to provide incentives for sea turtle friendly lighting along Florida’s nesting beaches. CCC’s presentation can be viewed online at www.conserveturtles.org/florida.

Citizens Insurance
State subsidies can encourage and/or support high-risk development on the most seaward dunes of eroding beaches in Florida. This will lead to the need for sea walls or perpetual beach renourishment to protect these properties from the encroaching surf. CCC is particularly concerned about the low-cost builder’s risk and homeowners insurance provided through the Florida Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (CPIC). This citizen-subsidized insurance is available regardless of whether a home is being built a mile inland or on the edge of a critically-eroding beach. The 2008 Florida Legislature established the CPIC Mission Review Task Force to recommend ways to reduce coverage and reform the CPIC. The CPIC, by providing artificially low rates to any coastal resident, has quickly become the largest home insurer in the state. CCC made recommendations to the Task Force and the CPIC Governing Board suggesting ways to reduce coverage in very high-risk coastal locations and in areas that jeopardize other state and federal efforts to protect beaches and dunes. CCC recommended that coverage not be provided in two situations: for homes built seaward of the state’s 30-year erosion projection setback line and in Coastal Barrier Resource Areas where the federal government already withholds subsidies to limit risk and protect valuable coastal resources. The CPIC should not be allowed to undermine other state and federal efforts to protect the beach environment. Some of CCC’s recommendations have been included in the Task Force’s final report to the Legislature.

Beach Management
The 2008 Florida Legislature established the Beach Management Working Group (BMWG) to look at the effectiveness of the Florida’s statewide beach management program, specifically the state’s beach nourishment and renourishment projects, project design, and related engineering and environmental studies. The BMWG looked at the transparency, accountability, effectiveness, and responsiveness of the beach program. Keeping with Florida’s emphasis on reducing regulatory red tape and using limited dollars most effectively, the BMWG focused on regulatory streamlining and efficiency, and on how to ensure that the most worthy beach building projects receive funding to move forward. The BMWG was composed of local government representatives, coastal engineers, agency staff and CCC, which was appointed to represent the interests of environmental/coastal stakeholders. CCC was honored to be appointed and to work with the other members on meeting the goals provided by the legislature, while ensuring the continuation of adequate environmental protections for coastal resources and marine turtle nesting beaches. BMWG’s final report submitted to the 2009 Florida Legislature can be viewed at www.conserveturtles.org/freethebeach.