By Daniel A. Perez, Florida House member
When our community faces a challenge, we must understand it and face it head-on as a unified team.
The widespread flooding associated with Tropical Storm Eta and the high tides of the past few weeks have made the threat of more frequent flooding and sea-level rise even more apparent.
Eta was the 28th named storm of this hurricane season. This month, Hurricane Iota became the 30th named storm, breaking the 2005 record for the most named storms in a season.
Beyond the inconvenience of water in the streets, homes, and businesses, livelihoods are at risk, as well. Recent days reminded us that the risk stretches far beyond our coast. Flooding spread across our entire region due to our flat terrain and it is affecting every single resident of South Florida.
However, we cannot let our previous inaction create the narrative for our future. The Florida State University, University of Florida and University of Miami fans know that you cannot let a bad season or two overshadow the talent and hope for future seasons. Florida needs more than a touchdown or two. We need winning season after winning season.
We must make taking coordinated and continued action on flooding a priority. I am committed to doing so.
On top of sunny-day flooding, we are experiencing storms and hurricanes that produce more rainfall and flooding than ever before. Sea-level rise exacerbates the risk.
In 2017, for example, flooding from Hurricane Irma affected over 133,000 homes in Florida — 35,000 of which wouldn’t have flooded without the seven inches of sea-level rise since 1970. As sea levels continue to get higher, more homes and businesses will be in peril. We must adapt.
Adaptation makes sense economically. Inaction will cost us far more than strategic investments in flood protection. In addition to flooded homes and businesses, inaction will lead to a decline in our economy. Action will preserve the South Florida we all love.
From protecting individual properties to investing in community-wide protection, the benefits outweigh the costs up to four to one regionally. Thousands of jobs will be created, and our economy can continue to grow.
The state’s financial stability depends on a healthy real estate market. Recent research shows that homes in previously flooded areas don’t appreciate at the same rate as homes in areas not prone to flooding. We also know that the threat is manageable if we start taking steps now — and that investors derive confidence from signals of action.
The challenge will not be solved in this legislative session alone — or the next. It will not be solved solely by one level of government. It will require a long-term planning effort and continued leadership at all levels. We must lower our shoulder, face the challenge and, step by step, move the ball down the field.
Continuity of leadership on this issue is essential. It will send a clear message that Florida is not shying away from this challenge. Florida can be an example of how to work collaboratively to solve big problems. Let’s resolve to look to the future to take on the challenges of flooding and sea-level rise, protect our communities and grow our economy at the same time.
Together, as a team, we can tackle this challenge.
Daniel A. Perez represents District 116, which includes parts of Miami-Dade County, in the Florida House.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state. It is supported by a grant from the Environmental Defense Fund.