The Advocate


Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has taken City efforts to address potential flooding and rising sea levels all the way to the United States Senate – just the latest step to bring attention to an important issue that many feel has not before been properly addressed by officials.

Or rather, Sen. Bill Nelson brought his U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Science and Space, of which he is chair, to Miami Beach.

“Senator Nelson’s Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Space and Science contacted the City of Miami Beach to host this meeting,” Levine said. “I was honored to personally testify in front of the subcommittee, which was held in the City of Miami Beach Commission Chambers.”

Levine said it was an important step in addressing an issue his administration has focused on.

“Our office and the administration wanted to let the federal government know that our city was the first municipality in the region to take sea level rise into consideration in stormwater management and we will continue to be at the forefront of planning for climate change and contributing to make Miami Beach and the region resilient,” Levine said. “The city is committed to ensuring that we continue to thrive as a world-class tourist destination with a high quality of life for its residents and that we are looking for the federal government’s commitment to help make that happen.

“All initiatives that this administration is undertaking are worked on with a tremendous sense of urgency – sea level rise and improving our stormwater manage infrastructure is no different,” he added. “Sea level rise and street flooding are two issues that impact the daily lives of Miami Beach residents. We experience flooding on the sunniest of days as a result of higher high tides, elevated groundwater levels, and oversaturated soils.  As such, we have made this one of our top priorities.”

Furthermore, Levine said he believes efforts such as this can prompt necessary change.

“Of course – I believe this calls attention to the issue of sea level rise and its potential impact on Miami Beach,” Levine said. “We firmly believe that moving into the future, Miami Beach is looking to become the nexus of innovation for short-term and long-term climate change planning. We are looking within and beyond our borders for innovative solutions to our climate change challenges.”

Early Steps And Awareness

Levine’s administration acted swiftly following his November election to address an issue that has plagues Beach residents for decades.

In February, a Blue Ribbon Task Force took previous City of Miami Beach leaders to task for ignoring the potential destruction from rising seas to a community of barrier islands. The result was a change in development regulations to help mitigate for what is expected to happen, but only two decades or so into the future.

“Personally I think previous administrations totally tuned out,” Scott Robins, chair of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Flooding Mitigation and Sea Level Rise, told SunPost following the task force presenting its findings to the City earlier this year.

Robins said that in reviewing the available data, it was obvious that the problem of flooding was not properly evaluated by previous administrations and city commissions.

“I don’t think they took the time to realize what studies revealed and think they just sat on their hands,” Robins said. “Studies are only as good as who commissions them.”

Robins, both a preservationist and a developer, said the task force was pleased with the initial reaction from the City and particularly City Manager Jimmy Morales and Mayor Philip Levine, was good, and that progress is underway – even if any planning cannot, as of now, prepare for the longer term.

“The science is not all in,” Robins told SunPost at the time. “Scientists can’t even agree; we all need another 10-15 years to really know.”

Meanwhile, construction aimed at flood mitigation has upset numerous Miami Beach residents and others still feel more action is needed.

Also factoring into need are the King Tides, unusually high tides that science seems to believe, are caused by an uncommon astral alliance and thus predictable. They are expected to occur in the next year or so and could affect sea level.

“I have no idea if the city is ready for a serious rise in sea levels, considering how much flooding comes from even a mediocre thunderstorm,” said Beach resident Lee Stanley. “If the City of Miami Beach knows the real science behind global warming, global cooling, climate change or whatever they are calling it this week, that makes them smarter and more honest than anyone else in the world on the subject. Believers have faked evidence to support their belief and destroyed evidence that didn’t support their belief. Meanwhile some critics refuse to admit that there is any change happening at all. Advocates seem to feel the solution is to raise taxes and unilaterally return to a pre-Industrial lifestyle while sending America’s wealth overseas to try to bribe developing countries to do the same. Of course, they won’t. Nobody really knows. The earth is how many billion years old? We have statistical data for what, about a century? There are computer models, of course, just as there are for weather. How well do those computer weather models do predicting tornadoes? See the carnage every spring from tornadoes? The problem is ‘climate change’ is a religion with a political agenda and not science; and the other guys don’t trust what science there is.”

As with others asked, Stanley said he had never heard of the King Tides.

“Oh, great, but I still have to wonder if they are real or not,” he asserted.

Still, Stanley was pleased to learn that the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Flooding Mitigation and Sea Level Rise has taken the task on, appears to “be honest about what is and what is not known” and also pleased that Levine has taken the cause to federal authorities.

Washington Goes To Mr. Levine

Last month, Levine’s testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Science and Space described the current situation, the history of the problem, City efforts to address it and federal needs to continue addressing the

“Miami Beach’s most pressing climate change challenge is sea level rise because we are already seeing its effects first-hand,” Levine testified. “In recent years, Miami Beach has observed an increased frequency of urban flooding caused by higher high tides, elevated groundwater levels, and oversaturated soils. Street flooding so regularly impacts our city that residents have become familiar with its effect on city operations and their daily lives. It is not uncommon to worry about vehicles parked in areas with quickly rising tidal waters or to observe residents wading barefoot through knee-high flood waters to access their homes and local businesses. This reality is not acceptable and it is getting worse. During last year’s King Tides in October there was one and a half feet of salt water that inundated the streets. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the King Tides this October are anticipated to be three feet and nine inches above mean high water, which is almost three inches higher than our city saw last year.

“Miami Beach also recognizes storm surge as a pressing climate change challenge. Like sea level rise, storm surge raises the waters surrounding Miami Beach above average levels, results in flooding, and causes damage to upland properties and infrastructure,” Levine continued in his testimony. “During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, we experienced waves as high as 10 feet, which caused significant flooding and beach erosion throughout our city. While Miami Beach is familiar with hurricanes, scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as storms, floods and hurricanes will increase in frequency and intensity.”

Levine went on to explain the efforts his administration has taken, plans and regulations in the works as well as numerous other environmentally responsible efforts the City has taken. Miami Beach is considered one of the more environmentally conscious municipalities in the U.S.

However, Levine also testified that federal involvement is needed.

“Miami Beach needs the federal government to prioritize identifying economically-feasible sand sources for the continued restoration of our beaches,” Levine testified. “Since our beaches were initially restored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1980, they have not only been instrumental in spurring our economic growth and establishing our city as one of the country’s top tourist destinations, but they have also provided our investments and infrastructure with necessary storm surge protection. Recently, the offshore sand deposits that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers depends on for the on-going maintenance of our beaches were depleted and alternative sand sources have yet to be identified. If a viable domestic source cannot be identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, through the on-going Southeast Florida Sediment Assessment and Needs Determination (SAND) Study, the City urges that the federal government to take the necessary steps to allow the use of non-domestic sand sources in the Dade County Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection Project. Your pledge to preserve this critical asset is imperative to protect the future of our economy, our infrastructure, and our residents.

“We also respectfully request your continued support of federal agencies like the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that inform and contribute to our on-going planning and management efforts,” Levine continued. “Miami Beach is already directly engaging qualified experts and fostering cross-disciplinary dialogues with local universities such as Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, and the University of Miami to further investigate local challenges, like the anticipated changes to our hydrology. However, U.S. communities, like Miami Beach, also depend on the data gathered by these federal agencies to evaluate threats to public services, our infrastructure, our residents, and our industries.

“Our city was the first municipality in the region to take sea level rise into consideration in stormwater management and we will continue to be at the forefront of planning for climate change and contributing to make Miami Beach and the region resilient,” Levine added. “The City is committed to ensuring that we continue to thrive as a world-class tourist destination with a high quality of life for its residents and we are looking for your commitment to help make that happen.”

Levine told SunPost that the City wants the community to know this vital public concern is being addressed.

“We are working diligently to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and over the next five years, we will spend over $300 million to complete neighborhood drainage projects that will alleviate chronic street-level flooding and reduce property flooding concerns; we are planning for and investing in our future,” Levine said.

About Michael W Sasser

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