FL Governor Signs Flood Prevention Law

FRIDAY, MAY 28, 2021

To better prepare the state for future flooding and sea level rise, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed two bills into law, outlining a several-years-long spending plan.

“This is a really significant amount of resources, we’re really putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to protecting the state of Florida, particularly our coastal communities, from the risks of flooding,” DeSantis said at the bill signing ceremony in Tarpon Springs.

“The Legislature delivered on my calls for meaningful, significant investments in resiliency.”

Protecting Florida

According to reports, the signing of SB 1954 and SB 2514 will officially set aside hundreds of millions of state dollars over the next few years to fund flooding infrastructure projects and mediate rising sea levels, among other things.

As part of the legislation, the Department of Environmental Protection has been tasked with preparing an annual flooding and resiliency plan. The development of the plan requires the Department to compile data every five years to best determine the highest at-risk coastal communities. Environmental officials will also use this data to devise their first vulnerability assessment for flooding under sea level rise across the state. The assessments are slated to be updated every five years.

The new research hub for these data compiling initiatives is planned to be situated at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg.

In addition, the DEP will also provide up to $100 million annually to local communities, in which submitted applications for government funding will be ranked by the Department. Much of the funding is expected to come from documentary stamp taxes, while lawmakers could redirect more than $100 million per year of that revenue from trust funds for affordable housing.

Although several environmental groups and legislators expressed support of the bills’ passing, some criticize that the actions were belated and still not enough to prepare these at-risk communities.

“While it’s progress to see Governor DeSantis and Florida’s Republican leadership at long last acknowledge the harm local communities are seeing because of climate change, this legislation does nothing to get at the root of the problem,” Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, wrote in a statement.

Yoca Arditi Rocha, executive director of The CLEO Institute, a climate change advocacy group added, “Florida cannot be truly resilient if we continue to preempt clean, renewable energy progress. If the Governor wants to protect the state of Florida and ‘Be Always Ready,’ he will veto harmful energy preemption bills and not waste billions in funds.

“To put it in layman’s terms, this is like mopping a flooded bathroom floor without turning off the faucet.”

Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls, has brushed aside criticism however, saying, “With sea level rise, we see our risk grow exponentially, from storm surge and tidal flooding to groundwater and flash flooding. We can debate all day the whys and how this happens, but if we just do that and we just debate it all day, we wouldn’t do anything.”

Melissa Roberts, Executive Director, American Flood Coalition, expressed similar praise, saying in a news release that, “Florida is taking a systemic approach to increased flooding and sea level rise that is now a model for the country.”

Other Coastal Protection Efforts

Most recently, in April, the City of Miami completed its updates on its Stormwater Master Plan, a comprehensive assessment of the city’s roads, drainage infrastructure and water management features to identify improvements needed to address capacity and flooding issues.

The final plan covers nearly $4 billion in spending over the next 40 years in an effort to keep the city dry from rising seas, with some of its recommendations to be included in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, which considers changing climactic patterns, sea level rise, and the desire to strengthen the resiliency of Miami.

Work on the plan was reported to have launched two years ago in 2019 when sea levels were expected to rise 18-30 inches by 2070. However, those predictions have since increased, now predicting that the sea levels would rise that high 20 years sooner in 2050.

The SWRP involved a series of studies, analyzation of data and recommendations made by engineers to create the collection of planning-level costs for capital projects. The plan also considered design storm flooding predictions using stormwater models simulating topography and land use, the physical attributes of the stormwater management system, controls and limitations, and the runoff generated by rainfall, in order to properly identify deficiencies and recommend corrective actions.

For the $3.8 billion the city plans to spend over the next four decades, the City of Miami intends to purchase at least 93 new mega stormwater pumps (the city currently has 13), miles of six-foot-tall seawalls, thousands of injection wells, as well as a network of underground pipes which would expand the sizes from roughly three to four feet wide to eight feet wide. The SWMP also mentions the “eventual requirement” of flood walls and water barriers at the mouths of rivers and canals—a part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ $6 billion plan to protect the county from future storm surge.

To pay for the series of projects, the report suggests grants and the combination of state and federal funding, in addition to partnerships with private companies. Although, another issue with the plan is that the $3.8 billion outlined, does not include maintenance cost and would have to be contracted out. Should the city fail to get the proper funding, the Miami Herald points out that the estimated cost of adaptation is four times the city’s annual budget, and with about $175 million left in the Miami Forever Bond dedicated to sea level rise projects.

In May of last year, the Army Corps of Engineers announced the preliminary proposal of a $1.75 billion seawall around the lower Charleston Peninsula in South Carolina. However, with possible variations, the cost of the seawall could inflate to as much as $2.2 billion.

Reports indicate that if built, the seawall would measure nine-miles-long and stand 12-feet-tall, consisting of two primary sections: an overland concrete barrier located along the eastern side of the peninsula from downtown to the Neck, and a metal barrier—called a combo wall—that would run through marsh and nearshore areas along the western side of the peninsula, in addition to a small portion on the eastern side.

Later that year, in October, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that construction on a $336 million coastal resiliency project was officially kicking off. According to reports, the shorefront project involves the construction of six miles of storm surge flood protection along the Queens waterfront. However, the first phase of the project will see the building out and restoration of nearly 20 stone groin structures—similar to rock jetties—into the ocean to prevent additional sand erosion.

The rehabilitation and construction of these flood barriers are expected to provide stabilization for a re-nourished sand beach and dune and maintain the protective beach profile, as well as help to restore local ecosystems and ensure the long-term viability of endangered species.

Following these efforts, crews intend to reinforce a network of dunes with stone and steel sheet pile walls, achieving a height two feet higher than the original structure, and further protecting the coast from wave breaking pressure. The new structures are also slated to limit surge inundation and cross-peninsula flooding.

The following month, the Corps and the Texas General Land Office released a second draft of its envisioned multi-billion-dollar coastal storm barrier, Ike Dike. Plans for the barrier have reportedly been in the works since Hurricane Ike rocked Galveston, Texas, in 2008, and are expected to cost anywhere between $23 billion to $32 billion.

The Ike Dike barrier would consist of a system of levees and sea gates beginning north of High Island, running along Bolivar Peninsula. The coastal barrier would also wind its way across the entrance of Galveston Bay and run the length of Galveston Island, eventually including the pre-existing seawall, ending at San Luis Pass.

At the bay’s entrance a series of storm surge gates would accommodate navigation to a few ports, namely Galveston’s, Texas City’s and Houston’s. A navigation gate, located along the Houston Ship Channel, would close during storms. Galveston would be protected with a ring levee shielding the rear of the island.

Other plans for the Ike Dike include beach and dune restoration along the lower Texas coast. Nine ecosystem restoration projects are also in the works to help increase area resilience.

Noting on the project’s revisions, one of the biggest changes involves the replacement of a series of levees and floodways previously slated to run parallel to State Highway 87 on Bolivar Peninsula and FM 3005 on Galveston Island with 43 miles of a natural dune and beach system.

The system is reportedly comprised of 14-foot dunes on the landward side and 12-foot dunes on the Gulf, followed by 250 of beach. While the Corps notes that the change will reduce environmental and social impacts, it would also require about 39 million cubic yards of sand for beach and dune construction on both Bolivar Peninsula and West Galveston Island.

Other changes to the project proposal involve updating the storm surge gate between Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula to two 650-foot-wide surge gates at the mouth of Galveston Bay, instead of the initially proposed 1,200-foot wide gate. Although the change would reduce the water flow by 10%, the Corps estimates that design change has less of an impact on restricting the flow of water between the bay and the Gulf than previously proposed, adding that the gates would only be closed during the event of a storm.


Tagged categories: Environmental Controls; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection; Flood Barrier; Funding; Government; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Seawall; Stormwater; Water/Wastewater

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