High tides and storms created more havoc in South Florida during 2012 than many could remember in recent years, while Miami Beach and other communities began real planning for rising sea levels.
Beachgoers from Singer Island to Fort Lauderdale got a Thanksgiving shock when high tides – on the heels of Hurricane Sandy – ripped away large areas of sand. Many people said the widespread damage, including Sandy’s strike on New York, was a sign of climate change.
The worst area was a four-block stretch just north of Sunrise Boulevard, where the ocean consumed sidewalks, parking meters, palm trees and the four-lane State Road A1A was narrowed to two lanes.
During a Dec. 11 meeting, the Florida Department of Transportation said it was considering a rebuild to four lanes, but four lanes wouldn’t open for about three years.
In August, the city of Miami Beach said it was vetting a $200 million storm water plan that is one of the first in the nation to respond to sea level rise resulting from global warming.
Engineering firm CDM Smith said its plan was created to address storm water issues in Miami Beach over the next 20 years. It laid out various strategies that include New Orleans-style pumps and sea walls.
Interim C Manager Kathie G. Brooks told the Business Journal said it was one of the first storm water master plans in the state of Florida to consider potential impacts of sea level rise.
But some environmentalists said it was too little, too late.
“This plan minimizes and downplays the cost and seriousness of this problem,” said Dwight Kraai, a retired engineer on Miami Beach’s capital improvements committee. “Simply put, the city is planning for 4 inches of sea level rise when they know it will be more than that.”
“Of course, we are going to pay for it; whether it’s the county or the city or the federal government, the money will come from us,” Mayor Matti Herrera Bower said of the plant. “Looking at 25 years from now, I’m not that worried, because I’ll be 100 by then. But it does worry me for the children. By that time, other city officials will be elected and perhaps we’ll need higher buildings and other things.”
Regarding A1A, state officials said options were on the table, including two lanes of traffic with a turn lane, a wider beach or “greenway,” and making the road higher to help prevent future erosion, said Cleo Marsh, FDOT District 4 maintenance engineer.
Marsh said a decision on any possible redesign of the road must be made by the end of March.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and other officials said rebuilding the beach would probably include dunes and sea oats or other vegetation.