Plan to Create a More Resilient Miami Faces Hurdles, Skepticism
As the 2021 hurricane season ramps up, plans to safeguard Miami and its environs have come under scrutiny.
Climate change in South Florida has been on the radar of government officials for years as they seek the best ways to protect the lives of residents and the integrity of infrastructure.
“This project is typical of the kinds of reactions that have been taking place in Miami regarding resiliency and climate change for many years. It is reactive instead of being proactive,” Alan Rubin, principal, Blank Rome Government Relations, told The Bond Buyer. “For over 25 years now both the South Florida Water District and other environmental groups have been indicating that the urban growth of Miami Dade County especially westward towards the Everglades has been a disaster waiting to happen.
"Predictions have been that by 2035 there will not be any potable water for the county’s use. The plan to construct a massive wall running around Miami will not help the conditions for the sinking of the city — it may provide some additional time before salt water erosion and storm surge overtake the area, but it will happen regardless,” he said.
Rubin, who is head of Blank Rome’s severe weather emergency recovery team, said caution was also warranted in the area of building materials and specialty construction.
“The material of the flood wall is also concerning. Concrete is not a substance that works well with salt water — witness the Surfside building collapse. Also, constructing the wall will require environmental construction techniques that the Army Corps is not equipped to handle. The project will also have massive overruns and costs will not be anything like projected.”
“There are some valid reasons to build such a wall, but [they] should look to the Netherlands for how to build with the coastline issues taken into account. Gates for allowing water to flow and surge to be controlled, materials other than concrete or a combination of materials that are compatible with salt water should be examined,” Rubin said. “Keeping as much of the natural coastal protection should be incorporated into the planning process. The construction itself needs to be done with a contractor who has successfully built a massive flood wall around a populated civic center would be a criterion that I would implement.”
Rubin noted that Miami has already wiped out many of the natural features that could bolster it against rising seas and storms.
“The natural protective barriers such as mangroves, barrier islands and other protective advantages have been wiped out by developers and the lack of proper code enforcement and building permitting,” Rubin said.
“Obviously something has to be done, but truly it is too late to provide long-term climate relief at this point,” Rubin said. “They should try to make it as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.”
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“Plan to Create a More Resilient Miami Faces Hurdles, Skepticism,” by Chip Barnett, was published in The Bond Buyer on February 18, 2021.