When I was asked to spearhead the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce’s sea-level rise and resiliency initiative two years ago, I knew very little about this issue.
However, I brought together experts in the field such as Dr. Jennifer Jurado, Chief Resiliency Officer for Broward County; Dr. Nancy Gassman, Interim Deputy Public Works Director for Fort Lauderdale; Dr. Colin Polsky, Director for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University and Dr. Alec Bogdanoff, President & Co-Founder of Brizaga, Inc.
We had two major goals for our first year: create awareness and bring the business community to the table. Those goals are being realized as evidenced by “The Invading Sea” series by South Florida’s three major newspapers and WLRN and the focus on business and resiliency at the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit in December.
Here are a few success stories.
Broward County’s Resilient Dunes Program
It was launched in 2016 after tropical storm Sandy hit. We learned that dunes can mitigate coastal flooding while also reducing sand loss and infrastructure damage from storms.
It emphasizes the integration of dunes as part of larger beach nourishment projects, with the goal of achieving 80 percent dune presence along Broward beaches.
So far, 10 projects have been completed. They are in addition to the 1.5 miles of dunes that were installed during the 2016 beach nourishment project. And the benefits are already being realized. During Hurricane Irma, we saw far less street flooding and sand loss where dunes had been installed.
After Sandy eroded Fort Lauderdale beach, it was further damaged by a high-wave event over Thanksgiving of 2012. About 2,000 feet of one lane of A1A was washed into the ocean.
Several government agencies responded. Broward County brought in sand to re-establish the beach. FDOT worked with the local community to re-think the restoration of the road. The City solicited community input.
In the end, the road was rebuilt with sheet piles driven to 45 feet to prevent scouring of the road bed. Drainage was redirected to the west, allowing a 2-foot increase in the ocean-facing lane for additional wave protection.
The iconic wave wall was replaced but anchored to the sheet pilings. Property owners agreed to have low dunes planted to prevent erosion and had input in changing the traffic flow at this location. The result is stronger infrastructure that preserves the beach, walkways and wave wall.
Several years ago, the homeowners of Riviera Isles approached Fort Lauderdale with a proposal. They wanted the City to install a new technology — one way check valves, also known as tidal valves, into the stormwater drainage system to address high tides in the fall.
The proposal included private funding that the City would reimburse if the valves met performance standards. The City agreed. During the next high-tide event, the valves met the performance criteria and the Riviera Isles community was reimbursed its costs. That success launched a more comprehensive program with 147 tidal valves installed throughout coastal Fort Lauderdale.
In Oakland Park after an October 2011 storm, the Expanded Lloyd Estates Residential & Industrial Drainage Improvement Project was developed to address drainage problems in the Lloyd Estates neighborhood and a 330-acre drainage area.
It included a new pump station and a combination of sensors, gates, and pumps responsive to tides,rainfall,and river level. Gates can be closed to prevent tidal flooding during king tides or to enhance freshwater storage. The pumps can discharge water quickly to help prevent flooding and to draw down the upstream basin in preparation of high-tide events. The project performed wonderfully during Hurricane Irma.
Saltwater intrusion threatened Pompano Beach’s drinking water wells in the 1980s.
The Commission had the foresight to build and implement a system to reuse water. Every gallon of reused water used for irrigation, saves a gallon of drinking water.
The city protects its water supply by reusing water instead of pumping more out of the ground. Pompano Beach is the only city to have pushed back the saltwater intrusion line.
This was accomplished by growing the system and building a western well field to reduce eastern well pumping. Planning includes identification of the future water supply if the eastern wells become unusable. The City has locations for eight future wells within the western well field and the ability to expand its water treatment plant to accommodate them.
These stories are just a few of the innovative measures being taken to deal with sea-level rise. This challenge is not unique to South Florida and will affect most coastal cities. The economic consequences if we don’t develop and pay for solutions will be staggering.
Ina Lee is the owner of Travelhost Greater Fort Lauderdale and chair of the Coastal Coalition.
“The Invading Sea” is a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media.