Emerging Legal and Institutional Responses to Sea-Level Rise in Florida and Beyond


David L. Markell

The legal environment for local government in Florida (the “State”) is beginning to change when it comes to sea-level rise (“SLR”).  Innovations in institutional structure and governance strategies are underway in the State as well.  This Article reviews three recent developments, which relate primarily to comprehensive planning in the State, and explores their implications for Florida’s local governments, among others.  It begins, in Part II, with the State’s decision, in 2011 legislation, to give local governments a new, optional tool—referred to as “Adaptation Action Areas” (“AAAs”)—to address sea-level rise and related issues in local comprehensive plans.  Part III turns to a second piece of Florida legislation, the State’s 2015 “Peril of Flood” legislation, which mandates that local governments begin to address sea-level rise and other causes of flood-related risks through their comprehensive planning processes.  Part IV discusses a third initiative, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, launched in 2009 by four Southeast Florida counties—Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe—to foster local government and regional coordination on sea-level rise and other climate change issues.

Part V builds on the review in Parts II–IV of these three developments by exploring them through two different lenses.  It reviews how these developments may affect the roles of different actors in addressing challenges associated with sea-level rise.  This author and Professor Robert Glicksman have recently highlighted the importance of considering the roles of the entire suite of potential actors as part of policy design.  This Article’s review of the roles of different actors in the three Florida initiatives identifies and explores some of the outstanding questions concerning these initiatives when viewed through this frame.  In addition, the question of how to structure and administer governance approaches, especially in times of dynamic change, is of critical importance in connection with SLR, and Part V uses the frames of adaptive governance and adaptive management to explore the Florida experience.


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