For a few days each fall, the highest of high tides flood streets in Miami Beach.
It’s a swampy headache that residents, particularly those in the South Beach and Sunset Harbor neighborhoods, have to wade through. The problem worsens when it rains, especially for traffic.
The city is working to have five pumping stations in the southwestern part of the island running by the time the so-called “king tides” arrive around Oct. 9.
The expedited projects come in anticipation of a higher king tide than last year, which is projected to rise to nearly four feet. Beach streets start to flood at around three feet.
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Wednesday morning, city officials toured the construction site at 10th Street and West Avenue, where workers were installing a pumping system that will collect, filter and push storm water into Biscayne Bay. The city has a five-year, $300 million plan to install about 60 pumps throughout Miami Beach.
A large crane loomed over the hole in the ground as it lowered a concrete structure where storm water will collect before it goes through a filter that will catch debris from the streets. The water will then move to a pump that will shoot out into the bay while preventing any water from rushing back into the system.
Eric Carpenter, Miami Beach’s public works director, said each pump can move 14,000 gallons of water per minute. He noted that the city is upgrading infrastructure that was put in place in the late 1950s, long before environmental concerns became a hot topic for federal, state and local governments.
“We’ll be moving more water into the bay, and it’s going to be much cleaner,” he said Wednesday.
Leonard Berry, a professor at the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, said the king tides are natural phenomena lasting three to four days that affect areas like eastern Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale in addition low-lying Miami Beach.
“The king tides are caused by a combination of the position of the moon and the sun and the earth,” he said.
Mayor Philip Levine told a gaggle of city officials and reporters that the construction projects mark the beginning of a long-term effort to battle sea-level rise.
“We’re going to make sure our streets are dry,” he said.
The City Commission recently agreed to raise storm water fees to pay for these projects.
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