The South Florida community has seen a tremendous impact to our daily lives in recent years due to the severe weather challenges. Most recently, we had a very active hurricane season, an astonishing rainfall record for the year and extremely high tides. All of these events have contributed to severe flood impacts in Broward County, not only in the coastal areas but also in our inland comm-unities. The flood impacts and destruction associated with this year’s active hurricane season, including Hurricane Irma, have left the South Florida community, the state and our nation with a new understanding of the widespread risk and devastation of severe weather. Improvements in flood risk management and storm surge protection are critical to risk reduction, with important roles and responsibilities for local, state, and federal decision makers.
The conditions of coastal and inland flooding are urgent issues in Broward County. Flooding has been especially noticeable in the last 10 years and the vulnerability to sea level rise is not unique to our coastal neighborhoods. Inland communities are recognizing dramatic impacts as well. A recent example happened this past year when a June rainfall event of 15 inches of rain led to widespread flooding and closure of the Sawgrass Mills Mall for a period of three days. These events and others like this cause a severe disruption of business operations and impact the ability of residents to navigate their daily lives.
As we continue to see the effects of growing storm events and continue to lose storage in our soils and in the regional system, we must begin to address storm water drainage needs. Our drainage and regional water management system was designed under conditions that are now 70 years old. The system relies almost entirely on gravity for operations. As seas rise, we lose the gradient that allows water to flow from west to east. Water is then impounded in the west while water rises in the east, making our community increasingly vulnerable.
To address these needs, we have to maximize storage and operations within this system. There are several solutions and immediate needs with a combination of approaches that can assist in the preparation for the future of Broward County. First and foremost, we need to hold rising seas at bay with improvements to coastal infrastructure, for example, raising seawalls and building dune systems along our vulnerable coast. Furthermore, we need storm water pumps to replace gravity operations to move water more quickly. In order to begin with these types of projects the leadership of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will be key to a number of these necessary investments. Counties and local governments can address issues including land use, building standards and certain storm water improvements. However, the effectiveness of our efforts and operations will hinge on what happens with respect to the larger scale flood protection and coastal infrastructure that is under the jurisdiction of the USACE. For the USACE to design and construct these projects, we must continue to advocate for increased funding in the U.S. Congress through our Florida Delegation and the Members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Broward County recognizes that this must be a regional effort among several communities.
We also need to recognize that we are just one of many coastal communities that will be looking for similar support. Therefore, we need to express the importance of our historical work as a region, the urgency of needed investment, and also remind the state and the nation of the economic impact our region provides for both the State of Florida and our country. Recognizing these major points can be the integral factor that moves our community forward and preserves the great quality of life that Broward County has to offer.
Recently, I participated in the 9th Annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit on December 14-15, 2017 at the Broward County Convention Center. This year’s summit focused on “The Business of Resilience” with a focus on engaging the business community in critical discussions on adaptation, climate and energy solutions, and resilience. I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on “Flood Risk, Insurance and Infrastructure: Resilient Solutions for the State and Nation.” I will be providing an update on the issues discussed at the summit in a future article.
If there is anything that we can do to assist you with your vision for a better Broward, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 954-357-7004. As always, it is my honor to serve you.