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Residents that rode out Hurricane Ian got their first look at the devastating damage from Hurricane Ian on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Bonita Beach. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times (2022) ]

FL - Tampa Bay officials release plan for dealing with climate change

Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council released the Regional Resiliency Action Plan in November aimed at strengthening the region against extreme weather events.

Florida’s sandy beaches and beautiful coastlines helped make it the fastest-growing state in the country last year.

About 4 million people live in the region extending from Citrus County to Sarasota — about a fifth of the state’s population. The Tampa Bay metro area’s population has swelled by more than 14% over the last decade.

Local governments across the Tampa Bay area are acutely aware of the risks involved with so many people living near a coast and even inland, where heavy rain can cause destructive flooding.

In November, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council presented a document four years in the making — the Regional Resiliency Action Plan — aimed at strengthening the region against extreme weather. Now, the council will tour the region in the new year and ask governments to adopt the plan.

[Flooding will get worse in Tampa Bay. Tropical Storm Eta showed how.]

The plan has been in the works since the creation of the Tampa Bay Resiliency Coalition in 2018. Each of the 32 members, representing local governments in the region spanning from Citrus to Sarasota counties, has signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate across Tampa Bay to find ways to adjust to the effects of a changing climate.

The coalition has grown over the years to include seven counties and 25 local governments within those counties.

The regional action plan “is sort of our road map for the region, how we work together on resiliency and how we move our priorities that we established in our initial (memorandum of understanding) forward,” Cara Woods Serra, the principal resiliency planner for the planning council, said.

The 72-page action plan is a menu of voluntary options from which local governments can choose based on their budget, staff capacity or geographic location, Serra said.

“We’re not trying to tell any of our member governments what to do,” Serra said. “We’re really trying to convene and provide resources and options for them.”

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