Miami Beach

Miami Beach wants to fast-track work to battle sea-level rise

Alejandro Herrera , a seventh-grader at Nautilus Middle School in Miami Beach, waits for the school bus in front of his condo on Indian Creek Drive during high tide on Miami Beach.
Alejandro Herrera , a seventh-grader at Nautilus Middle School in Miami Beach, waits for the school bus in front of his condo on Indian Creek Drive during high tide on Miami Beach. wmichot@miamiherald.com

A mile-long stretch of road in Miami Beach that has become ground zero for South Florida’s problems with sea-level rise could get a new seawall and an anti-flooding pump over the next two years.

Miami Beach and the Florida Department of Transportation are working out an agreement to split the anticipated $25 million it will take to safeguard the low-lying stretch of Indian Creek Drive that was the center of media attention when last fall’s king tides completely flooded the roadway. Images of tourists sloshing in several inches of water to get to their hotels became emblematic of the region’s struggles with seasonal tides that have grown worse in recent years.

Miami Beach has put into action an aggressive and expensive plan to combat the effects of sea level rise. The city is rolling out its plan of attack and will spend between $400-$500 million over the next five years doing so.

The state plans to fund $19.5 million of the cost and the Beach would pay $5.5 million. Indian Creek Drive is a state-owned road, but the city would agree to foot some of the bill because the upgraded drainage system would serve nearby city streets.

In the past, flooding scenes played out on South Beach thoroughfares such as Alton Road, West Avenue and Purdy Avenue. But raised roads and storm-water pumps have helped keep those streets dry as the city continues its ambitious and expensive flood mitigation program. The city’s efforts represent a big experiment in dealing with the impacts of climate change.

6 to 10 inches Sea-rise projections for 2030 released in October by the four-county Southeast Florida Regional Compact

Officials were forced to close Indian Creek Drive between 26th and 41st streets multiple times last fall when water came over the sea-wall during high tides. City staff used temporary measures to try to minimize flooding from Indian Creek. They erected a barrier along the creek and ran temporary pumps. Hotels and condos, along with the hostel Freehand Miami, are on this stretch of road.

In a statement, Assistant City Manager and Public Works Director Eric Carpenter said the city plans to move quickly with the project so the street can see some relief later this year.

“Miami Beach is taking the lead in fast-tracking this project,” he said. “We anticipate starting construction as early as this summer to enable enough of the system to help during the high tides this fall.”

The planned improvements along Indian Creek include:

▪ Building a sea-wall from 26th to 41st streets, at a higher elevation. The wall would be built on top of a sheet pile wall that would reach 20 feet deep so as to prevent water from flowing underground as well as over the wall and into the road.

▪ Constructing a pump station at 32nd Street.

▪ Installation of a 72-inch drainage line that would connect to an existing drainage system on 41st Street.

▪ Raising the road a few feet. According to a city memorandum, Beach officials would have to study what impact a higher road would have on surrounding businesses.

The state transportation department is working on a draft agreement. The city wants to complete the work over the next two years.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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