DELRAY BEACH — President Donald J. Trump may not be prioritizing climate change, but Delray Beach city leaders are.
Mayor Cary Glickstein joined more than 300 mayors nationwide in signing a vow to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement for environmental action to combat global warming, despite Trump’s recent controversial withdrawal of the United States from the agreement.
“I wonder if those other mayors got a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap stuffed in their mailboxes as a result,” Glickstein joked at a city workshop Tuesday, in which the city commission agreed to prioritize the threat of rising tides in future city planning.
Glickstein’s signing of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, an agreement to take environmental action on a local level, makes Delray Beach one of just two cities in Palm Beach County that have joined the initiative.
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio also signed the initiative.
A study conducted by a city task force looked toward areas south of Delray Beach, such as Miami Beach, as examples of the threat.
“They’re living our future, if you will,” said Nancy Schnieder, of the Institute for Sustainable Communities.
Miami Beach will soon embark on an ambitious $100 million project to raise roads, install pumps and water mains and redo sewer connections to combat flooding, according to the Miami Herald.
That could be in store for Delray Beach a decade down the line, commissioners said.
The effects of rising tides are already presenting themselves in Delray Beach, according to city staff.
Delray’s Marina Historic District along the Intracoastal Waterway sees damaging floods during high tides. And the city’s freshwater aquifers have already experienced saltwater intrusion that will require action within a year, said John Morgan, who heads the city’s environmental services department.
The city is planning both long-term and immediate actions to adapt to global climate change.
The commission supports a recommendation to create a department focused solely on sustainability, and create a position titled “chief resilience officer.” That would help the city seek grant funding in the future, Schneider said.
The city currently has just one sustainability officer in the environmental services department.
City leaders are also considering an increase to storm water fees for coastal properties, and reserving part of that revenue for unforeseen anti-flooding expenses.
Schneider also recommended aggressive lobbying for beach re-nourishment funding. Seawalls and dunes protect coastal properties from rising tides.
“Our beaches are key, not just as a barrier for storm surge and flooding but it’s our asset for tourism,” Schneider said.
The city plans to incorporate the rising tides study into its comprehensive plan, which details long-term goals.
That means, Schneider said, climate change will be taken into account when the city plans pricey coastal projects.
The city commission tasked staff with brainstorming more immediate actions the city can take to prepare for rising tide.
“The waters are coming,” said Deputy Vice-Mayor Shirley Johnson.