Legislation was filed today to create a commission charged with saving Biscayne Bay from “environmental decline.”
House Bill (HB) 1177 and Senate Bill (SB) 1482 propose establishing the Biscayne Bay Commission. If the bills pass the Legislature, the new commission will be charged with coordinating all public policy and projects related to the Biscayne Bay; uniting all governmental agencies, businesses, and residents in the area to “speak with one voice on bay issues;” and acting as the principal advocate and watchdog to ensure that Bay projects are funded and implemented in a timely manner. The proposal also prohibits sewage disposal facilities from disposing any waste into the Biscayne Bay.
The commission would be made up of three members of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, three members of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities, one member of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, one representative from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, one representative from the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, one representative from the Florida Inland Navigation District, and one representative from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
With legislation such as this some would expect the bills’ sponsors to have “Ds” following their names but both Florida House Representative Bryan Avila and Florida Senator Ileana Garcia are Republicans from Miami.
“Last August, my community was horrified to see thousands of fish and marine life turn up dead in Biscayne Bay. This fish kill was just another chapter in its recent history of environmental decline,” said Avila. “The establishment of a Biscayne Bay Commission is a giant step toward recovery. I am committed to protecting Florida’s environment and I am proud to file HB 1177 to protect our beautiful Biscayne Bay.”
Garcia said, “When I was sworn in to the Florida Senate last November, I made a promise to my constituents to be a champion for our precious and unique environment. I want to see the beautiful Biscayne Bay protected and preserved for generations to come. IN order to achieve this, we must be united and strategic as we take these critical steps towards recovery. The formation of the Biscayne Bay Commission, through SB 1482, will make certain our approach is both responsible and effective as we work to rescue the Bay and ensure its resiliency.”
The legislators are seemingly following the lead of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who throughout his tenure in office has tried to demonstrate Democrats aren’t the only ones who care about the environment. Earlier this year, DeSantis announced the State had earmarked $20 million to fund infrastructure improvements and other restoration projects for Biscayne Bay’s water, coral and seagrass. Most recently, DeSantis’ proposed budget for 2021-22 allocated $625 million to further his initial pledge upon taking office to invest a total of $2.5 billion in Everglades restoration and Florida’s water resources over four years.
So far, these initiatives have received bipartisan support within the Legislature and nods of approval from environmental groups.