As Miami Beach enters the season’s first round of unusually high tides this weekend, the city has begun to build taller seawalls in low-lying parts of the island.
Work on the seawall recently began on the southern edge of Indian Creek Drive, a mile-long stretch of road on the east side of the island that saw dramatic flooding during last fall’s seasonal high tides, known as “king tides.” The road drew much media attention last year as images of flooding conveyed the effects of sea level rise in South Florida.
Last year, water came over the top of an inadequate seawall and spilled onto the roadway. Together with water bubbling up through the porous ground and storm drains into the street, a high king tide forced the city to shut down the road until the water subsided.
In advance of this year’s king tides, the city placed a temporary two-foot concrete barrier along the east bank of Indian Creek, along with a silt fence to keep sediment from flowing into the creek should severe flooding occur. Temporary pumps are also in place between 26th Street and 41st Street, as well as at flood-prone Dade Boulevard near the Venetian Causeway. Across the canal, a taller seawall is almost complete.
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The first phase of the Indian Creek project is under way near 26th Street, where Indian Creek Drive merges onto southbound Collins Avenue. Thursday morning, a barge carrying a crane and concrete pilings floated on the water. The pilings will go into the ground in coming days, and a wall will be erected over the next month from 26th Street to 25th Street.
City officials don’t expect as high a tide as last September, which was fueled by a supermoon — an instance where the moon is closest to the earth in its orbit.
“I don’t think we’re going to be challenged this weekend,” said Bruce Mowry, city engineer for Miami Beach.
The city pushed to start work quickly on the $25 million Indian Creek project, $19.5 million of which is coming from the Florida Department of Transportation. Indian Creek Drive is a state road.
The overall project, expected to last about two years, will include raising Indian Creek Drive, replacing underground pipes and installing a storm water pump. The city plans on working as it obtains permits for each task from the county.
For the next phase of work, officials are determining how to deal with some of the mangroves that run along the creek.
The highest tides of the season usually arrive in October. During the past two years, infrastructure projects in flood-prone South Beach locations have successfully kept water off the streets. While city leaders have touted the work, questions have been raised about the impact the expelled storm water has on the water quality of Biscayne Bay.