The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved a package that included language to remove some county land from a Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) zone.
The language was contained within “lands package” legislation from the Senate, a combination of 100 bills, according to a spokeswoman in Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s office.
The package included an amendment from Rubio which would remove over 40 acres of Gulf County land from the CBRA zone.
That land includes the Cape Breezes subdivision and a small portion of Billy Joe Rish State Park.
Having been approved by the Senate last month, the legislation was approved by the full House late last week. It now goes to President Donald Trump’s desk for a signature or veto.
Rubio’s amendment included a map that was inadvertently left out of a bipartisan House bill sponsored by Congressman Neal Dunn (R-North Florida) and two other congressmen late last year.
“Specifically for Gulf County, the legislation corrects an erroneous placement of areas of the county into CBRA in the 1980s,” said a Dunn spokeswoman. “This is a small, but significant step to correct this.”
As it turned it, the map and associated language was inadvertently left out of the House bill, which strengthened some provisions of the law while also requiring updated and more accurate mapping in various coastal areas of the county.
Maps pertaining only to Bay and Dixie counties were included.
The final recommended agency map for Gulf County, from the agency overseeing the CBRA program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, removes 47 acres, some 40 structures, almost entirely in the Cape Breezes subdivision due to the level of infrastructure in place when included in CBRA.
Rubio included the map and language within the Senate “lands package.”
The 47 acres is seen as a crucial step for the county, which has been trying for two decades to overturn the CBRA designation for some 900 acres along coastal Gulf County.
“Once that 40 acres is done (the Board of County Commissioners) is going back to work on the rest of the acreage because we (will have a precedent),” Assistant County Administrator Warren Yeager said last week.
Gulf County officials have long argued that more than 900 acres were rolled into CBRA even though existing infrastructure should have precluded such action.
And, county officials argue that erroneous designation has cost the county tens of millions of dollars while handicapping property owners from securing federal funds, particularly federally-backed flood insurance.
Access to the federal flood insurance program is a focus of the language of Rubio’s amendment and Dunn’s House-approved bill.
Dunn has also sponsored a bill which is in committee that includes language mandating the removal of the CBRA designation from much of the unit that encompasses south Gulf County.
This is the most progress the county has made in the ongoing CBRA battle.
CBRA was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan and aims to preserve barrier islands by barring the use of federal funds and financial assistance, the aim to constrain development.
Changes require Congressional action.
Two previous congressmen, Allen Boyd and Steve Southerland, filed bills seeking to partially or in whole remove the CBRA designation in Gulf County.