#MiamiBeachRisingAbove   The Plans and Issues Regarding Miami Beach’s Solutions for Sea Level Rise

In February 2016 Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine stated  “every generation there will be a big challenge, a big cause, a war. I think today we have sea level rise and climate change.”

Link to:  Flood Awareness on Miami Beach

Miami Beach has taken unprecedented measures to protect itself.   It implemented a   $400 million engineering systems program  called “Rising Above” to protect itself from sea level rise, and storm surge.  The inhalation is well underway and has another 3 to 4 years to completion.   The City of Miami Beach is shouldering the cost of the program.  Typically large scale infrastructure programs in America have shared costs between local jurisdictions, the State and the US Federal Government.    However, with Federal and Florida State government denying Climate Change, the City of Miami Beach continues to bear the cost of this enormous engineering program.

The Engineering Solution 101

The primary focus of the Engineering Solutions in one the Biscayne Bay side (west side) of the Miami Beach island.  The ocean side has a wide beach with a substantial dune build-up which for the time being, is somewhat protects the Atlantic ocean side of the island.   Many of the barrier island communities north of Miami Beach do not have such wide beaches and are much more at risk on the eastern ocean-side. With sea level rise beach erosion further north, Miami Beach has been a net collector of sand.  While communities like Hollywood continue to lose sand.

During periods of full moon high tide during the summer months, streets in Miami Beach have experienced minor flooding even on dry days without rainfall.  What was a rare occurrence in the past, it is now rather frequent during summer full moons.   The dry day flooding has been the result of the sea level rising above the storm drainage outlets on the Bay which causes water to be pushed back up the drainage pipes and out the manholes on some streets.

The core components of the engineering solution includes Drainage Pipes, One-way Flex Valves, Pumps Stations with Power Generators and Sea Walls.  In addition, the City had been raising roads in the lowest level and highest risk areas.

Drainage Pipes and One-Way Flex Valves

While mostly utilizing existing Drainage pipes in much of the city, new drainage pipes have been added in just some at risk and redeveloped parts of the island.    The greater focus of the existing effort has been the installation of One-Way Flex Valves on drainage pipes to prevent water from backing up the drainage pipes and into the streets.

Pumps Stations with Power Generators

Large Pump Stations have been built and others have been retrofitted more effective pump water out from city street drainage and into the Bay.  While storm water would normally drain through the force of gravity, the sea level rise above the drainage system requires large pumping systems to actively pump the water out from the city streets through the pipes’ one-way flex vales and into Biscayne Bay.

Diesel power generators have been incorporated into some of the pump stations to keep the pumps working at times where the electric utility wires break, an unfortunately common occurrence when the electrical utility wires are above ground and can be easily damaged by trees and  windstorms.

During the summer 2017,  pumps without sufficient diesel power generation cut out during a full moon rain storm and caused some city streets to flood.  Certainly an embarrassment for the city administration, as many critics called the overall engineering solution a failure.  During Hurricane Irma, the system largely kept city streets drained of heavy water while State roads and unprotected streets had flooding.

 

Sea Walls

One the western Biscayne side of Miami Beach Island the city has been encouraging the private landowners to increase the height and strengthen sea walls.   As sea wall improvement is largely forced through the City’s permitting power for construction of new buildings or major renovations, large sections of the Bay side remain unprotected.  With some properties having up to code Sea walls and others not, large sections of bayside Miami Beach are not fully protect and at risk for storm surge.

 

Raising Roads

In sections of Miami Beach the city has increase the height  of city owned streets while also adding supplemental storm drainage systems.   In some cases, the raising of city streets has left adjacent buildings’ main floors and entrances below street level.   This creates new drainage and flooding problems as well as insurance issues for the adjacent properties.

Property owners may find their buildings or at least the below grade level is not insurable.   Property owners can, in some cases, lift their properties or redesign the lower level to better protect against flooding.  The cost to the private property owner for any of these options can be substantial.

Issues

  • The Rate and Level of Expected Sea Level Rise
  • City versus State versus Federal vs Private Ownership and Jurisdiction
  • Economic Viability and Costs
  • Insurance Issues
  • Land Use Codes, Building Codes, Landscaping Plans
  • City Powers to Enforce or Incentivize Compliance
  • Politics and City/County Elections

 

Jimmy Morales, City Manager, Miami Beach.  “Our current plan is how do we stay relatively dry for the next 30 to 60 years. … The real long term issue is how do we create a long term sustainable community?   That includes land use codes, building codes, landscaping plans,  how do we help individual property owners.  Do they raise their houses and buildings. what are the alternatives?   Will insurance companies insure that home, will rates go up? ”  “These is no handbook.”

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development lists Miami as the number-one most vulnerable city worldwide in terms of property damage, with more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise.  The estimated current market value of Miami Beach property is much higher.

 

“Given how much Florida has to lose from climate change, the abdication of leadership by state and federal politicians is almost suicidal – when it isn’t downright comical.” 

“With six feet of sea-level rise, South Florida is toast,” says Tom Gustafson, a former Florida speaker of the House and a climate-change-policy advocate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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