We should all feel encouraged by and be proud of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber for their clear commitment to South Florida’s Resiliency.
They will be building upon many years of trailblazing collaborate efforts by our region’s local governments. The Miami-Dade County Commission has built a sound foundation through various task forces on Climate Change Adaptation and Sea Level Rise; the continuing input and expertise of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact; the lessons learned from the proactive steps taken by Miami Beach, as well as the high level of public support demonstrated recently by Miami residents in approving a general obligation bond that will yield $200 million to combat seal-level rise are all building blocks for the actions to come.
The County Commission, with Commissioner Rebeca Sosa sponsoring, unanimously approved the recommendations of its Sea Level Rise Task Force, which called for the formal development of a detailed, robust capital plan. It would essentially re-engineer, re-invent infrastructure to ensure our sustainability in the face of a worst-case scenario as our future unfolds — with seas predicted to rise by two to three feet by 2060.
That complex, step-by-step effort has, in fact, begun under the direction of Jim Murley, the county’s resiliency director. It’s likely to result in a long list of needed projects affecting streets and roads, drainage and sewage systems, extensive water management and treatment systems, salinity dams and pump stations and much more.
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It will chart the design of our future and certainly be helpful that Gimenez has assumed a leadership role in Rockefeller’s 100 Resilient Cities Program. Without such innovative, adaptive planning, sea-level rise would relentlessly threaten trillions of dollars of the region’s built environment, its future water supply, unique natural resources, agricultural soils and our very insurability and economy.
Meeting this regional challenge will require a coordinated effort of unprecedented intergovernmental commitment and partnership. The Southeast Florida Climate Compact was established in 2009 in recognition that collaboration and support between Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties are essential to harness solutions on the scale of the regional challenge.
The Compact continues to play an important role in setting targets. At some point, the public will be asked to invest in its future by supporting a local bond issue to help fund the capital costs. Now is the time to build intergovernmental funding mechanisms. It’s not to early to seek the creation of a Federal Resiliency Partnership Fund to partner with local and state governments that are on the front line of developing adaptive solutions for the predicted impacts of climate change such as sea level rise.
Doing this will benefit the entire county by: accelerating the development of adaptive success models deployable “off the shelf” to scores of similarly situated localities elsewhere; spurring a much-needed redesign of deteriorating Urban and Rural infrastructures across the nation already in desperate need of repair and updated re-engineering notwithstanding the need to plan for impacts such as sea level rise; providing a needed “jobs program” that could substantially renew local economies; providing a far reaching damage prevention initiative that would greatly reduce the burden on FEMA’s damage compensation fund.
The time to act is now —there even seems to be bipartisan support for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. Why not start here?: Both the United Nations and the U.S. Climate Assessment have identified South Florida as Ground Zero for sea level rise. The world will be watching and, hopefully, learning from our efforts.
With the support of our people and the commitment of our elected officials, we can continue to build a future South Florida that not only will remain viable, but one that will also accelerate our emerging status as one of the most vibrant and resilient regions in the world.
Harvey Ruvin is Miami-Dade County’s clerk of courts. He chairs the county’s Climate Change Advisory Task Force.