This week’s record rainfall was another wake-up call for every coastal community in the country vulnerable to extreme weather events and sea level rise.
When I took office in 2013, our number one priority was to find immediate solutions to protect the city from flooding due to sea level rise. At that time, the flooding of Miami Beach streets was not just an anomaly, but a frequent occurrence.
Along with a team of experts and engineers, we devised a plan: to build a new stormwater system to protect our city’s streets, raise roads, and to install pumps to help mitigate weather events that impact us all. All of these measures were undertaken not as an end-all answer to our extreme weather woes, but as an important first step towards making our city 100 percent resilient.
Following Hurricane Matthew last year, where we utilized portable generators, the city made the determination to install at least one permanent generator in Sunset Harbour—and in February, my colleagues and I took the next step by authorizing the acquisition of stationary generators to be in place and operational ahead of the summer rains.
Unfortunately, due to slow procurement procedures, the process bogged down in bureaucratic paralysis. As you can understand, this is extremely frustrating and the delay has clearly impacted the progress we've made to address flooding in our city.
To put it simply, we cannot wait any longer. Our residents, rightfully so, are demanding action and I agree. Therefore, city staff have been instructed to immediately secure these generators on an emergency procurement basis, so that we are better prepared than ever to address sea level rise and challenging weather events like we saw this week.
The steps we've taken to mitigate flooding in 15 percent of the city are working, and bode well for the rest of Miami Beach once our resiliency plan is fully implemented. However, with that said, we continue to learn, innovate, and adapt, as we help write the newest chapter in how to effectively combat sea level rise.
Although not as fast we would have hoped, we did see how the pumps rapidly drained the streets, whereas five years ago those same streets would still be flooded for days. While not the total solution, building storm pumps, reinforcing sea walls, and raising roads work.
This week’s storm serves as a reminder both of how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.
We cannot stop now because the cost of delay is too great, and the consequences of inaction are too unimaginable. Furthermore, we must never allow bureaucracy to become a barrier to protecting this city.
In the fight against flooding and sea level rise, we are all in this together. Every one of us.
Philip Levine is the mayor of Miami Beach.