An aerial view of the Florida coastline at Clearwater Beach. McKim & Creed's experts explain Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)’s Sea Level Impact Projection SLIP Study Rule.

Understanding Florida’s SLIP Study Rule

Sea level rise and coastal flooding are issues that impact an increasing number of Florida’s coastal communities. As a firm specializing in service to public sector clients in Florida, we strive to stay informed about regulatory changes that could affect your work. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)’s SLIP Study Rule is an unprecedented step toward acknowledging and considering impacts of sea level rise on coastal construction in Florida. Starting July 1, 2024, the rule will be amended to be consistent with a new statute.

Why is the SLIP Study Rule Important?

Sea levels in Florida have risen by about a foot in the last century, with five inches of that increase occurring since 2000. Projections indicate that sea levels will continue to rise by 3-11 inches by 2040 and 14-39 inches by 2070. Florida implemented a new rule, effective July 1, 2022, to address this issue, called the “SLIP Study Rule.” This rule mandates Sea Level Impact Projection (SLIP) studies for state-financed construction of new structures within the Coastal Building Zone, which is generally defined as the land area 1,500 feet landward from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Construction Control Line. For areas without a defined CCCL, the rule applies to land areas seaward of most landward velocity zone (V-zone) line as established by FEMA.

What Constitutes a New Structure?

Florida Statutes (F.S.) 161.54 defines “major structure” as including residential, commercial, or public buildings and other constructions that can have a significant impact on coastal zones. The statute defines “nonhabitable major structure” as including various structures such as parking garages, pipelines, piers, canals, drainage structures, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical power plants, roads, bridges, streets, highways, and underground storage tanks. However, rehabilitation or maintenance of existing structures, including minor improvements, are not considered new projects.

What Exactly is a SLIP Study?

A SLIP study is conducted to document the rise in sea level and potential impacts of flooding, inundation, and wave action damage over 50 years or the expected life of a structure. The study assesses the risks to public safety and environmental impacts and provides alternatives for the project’s design and siting to address these risks and associated costs. The study must be submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection and posted on their website 30 days before construction begins. The study’s primary objective is to raise awareness of the potential impacts of rising sea levels and increased storm risk. Implementation of the study’s findings is at the discretion of the state-financed constructor.

What Happens After July 1, 2024?

2023 Florida House Bill 111 introduced updates to FDEP’s rulemaking authority in 380.0937 F.S. to be implemented through amendment of FDEP’s SLIP Study Rule, effective July 1, 2024. These changes will apply to construction projects that commence after this date and will expand both the geographic area and types of structures for which the rule applies. Applicability of the rule will expand from “coastal construction” to all “at-risk” areas. The term “at-risk” refers to areas below the threshold for tidal flooding within the next 50 years, considering projected sea-level rise above the documented mean higher high water (MHHW) elevation plus 2-feet. The new statute also defines “significant flood damage” and includes considerations for structures for which replacement cost is not an appropriate metric. Additionally, the changes add a requirement for reporting flood mitigation strategies that are evaluated and identifying appropriate strategies for consideration.

Why are the SLIP Study Rule Changes Important?

In the dynamic landscape of designing and constructing coastal projects, staying ahead of regulatory changes is paramount. With our expertise and support, we aim to empower you to navigate these changes seamlessly, maintain seamless schedules, and deliver projects that withstand coastal challenges effectively. Agencies need to ensure compliance to protect funding for projects, including direct appropriations and grant funding, most of which originates at the federal level.

How Can McKim & Creed Help?

Our Florida team specializes in navigating regulatory frameworks and providing tailored solutions for coastal projects. Whether you need assistance with SLIP studies or ensuring compliance with past or updated regulations, we’re here to support you every step of the way. Feel free to contact us to discuss how these changes may impact your upcoming projects.

Many local agencies use data from NOAA, FEMA, SLOSH models, or similar for their own local definition of at-risk areas. Will there be a new map from FDEP designating areas impacted by sea level rise?

FDEP is working with University of South Florida’s Florida Flood Hub on a new map that will be integrated into the SLIP Tool on July 1, 2024.

How is the SLIP Study Rule applied for multiple structures functioning as one combined project?

Only one SLIP study is required, based on the expected life of the structure with the highest Risk Category of all structures included in a project. Risk Category is currently based on 2020 Florida Building Code (FBC), and subsequent updates to the rule will address the upcoming 2023 FBC update.

How is a SLIP Study completed for structures/infrastructure for which replacement cost is not an appropriate metric?

The SLIP study for structures/infrastructure, where replacement cost is not an appropriate metric, is completed by defining an alternative metric in the SLIP rule update. This alternative metric includes a reduction in the Level of Service (LOS) or a reduction in free-flow speed by more than 10% to the traffic-impacted area regulated by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Additionally, the LOS must be reduced below the minimum LOS identified by local concurrency standards. Coordinating between the FDEP, FDOT, and Water Management Districts (WMDs) is crucial to defining this alternative metric.

Are state-financed constructors required to implement the adaptation strategies identified by the SLIP study?

Not at this time. The rule is informational rather than regulatory, and the implementation of the findings of the SLIP study is at the discretion of the constructor. There are, however, still consequences for failure to comply.

What are the consequences for failure to comply?

Failure to complete and submit a SLIP Study to FDEP may result in the pursuit of injunctive relief to cease construction until the constructor comes into full compliance. The state may also recover all or a portion of the state funds expended on the construction activity.