Photo by Paola Iuspa-Abbott
Photo by Paola Iuspa-Abbott
Before Superstorm Sandy flooded New York City subway tunnels and streets, a surge from the storm combined with a high tide to swallow the beach, palm trees, parking meters, sidewalks and a chunk of A1A near Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. During a similar storm on Thanksgiving weekend, part of A1A and the sidewalk gave out.
About 34 miles south, the same weather system flooded roads in Miami Beach, and stormwater drains were spitting the overflow back into the streets for days.
The same surging ocean stole part of Carlin Beach Park in Jupiter, where public restrooms and a lifeguard stand will probably have to be relocated.
Extreme weather is inflicting increasing damage on South Florida's infrastructure, and various climate-change scenarios have it getting worse as the sea level rises. For a region built only a few inches or feet above the water table, thrashing storms riding high tides are a recurring threat not only to coastal cities, but also to western suburbs perched on canals that push floodwater east to the Atlantic Ocean.
Little by little, South Florida's elected officials are waking up to the reality that a rising sea has become a critical issue with short- and long-term impacts.
For the first time, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties have joined forces to develop a road map to help deal with the encroaching ocean. The four-county alliance known as the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact has produced a regional climate action plan. The document, masterminded by scientists and public agencies, spells out strategies to adapt to the challenges caused by the rising sea level. The action plan could guide decisions on what, where and how structures should be built or rebuilt in vulnerable areas.
Participants believe the regional effort is the first of its kind in the country.
The action plan recommends counties and cities amend their comprehensive development master plans to include language about the rising sea level and climate change. That would influence decisions and policies on land use, zoning, water management, flood control, clean energy and more.
The plan also recommends that counties and cities identify the areas most vulnerable to inundation and determine the kind of public investment needed for roads, bridges, flood gates, storm drainage and sand dunes, among other things.
Increments In Inches
More importantly, the compact provides scientific data on sea-level rise that all the parties seem to embrace. Tides have risen about 3 inches in the past 30 years and about 6 to 7 inches over the past century, according to data collected in Key West, said hydrologist Jeremy Decker with the U.S. Geological Survey.