Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The climate change argument is over, but local government dithers ... by gimleteye

The roll over of climate change denial is occurring exactly as British 20th century poet TS Eliot might have predicted.

For those not inclined to remember Eliot, the $400 million dollar investment by the City of Miami Beach of new water pumps to recirculate tidal flood off certain commercial streets back into Biscayne Bay is one example how reality seeps in. Another; Miami Dade County Board Chairman's Jean Monestine mild proposal for "a resolution directing the Mayor to study and make recommendations on the consideration of sea level rise for zoning applications and applications to amend the Comprehensive Development Master Plan."

Always fear that word, "study", because it portends the resting place in a dusty storeroom in County Hall where taxpayer-funded county studies on protecting the environment and taxpayers are filed.

Read closely, the county resolution tip-toes forward as fall King Tides approach low-lying Miami. (I was an original member of the Climate Change Advisory Task Force, an appointee of then Mayor Carlos Alvarez.)

In April 2008, the report of the Task Force to the County Commission included the following recommendation:
Require all County agencies (and entities that receive County funding for significant infrastructure or built investments) to assess climate change impacts on the agency’s/entity’s responsibilities. This assessment should be incorporated into their master planning agenda or such a planning process should be initiated if it does not exist. The assessment should include the impact of sea level rise on all public investments and identification of vulnerabilities in order to produce strategies for mitigation and adaptation. These assessments should utilize a 50-year planning horizon.

Rationale: It is suggested this mandate utilize a 50 year window for planning (assuming at least 1.5 ft. sea level rise within that time frame and at least 3-5 ft. over 100 years) with interim benchmarks. There is an urgent need to incorporate climate change impacts into all basic planning and permitting. There is also a great need to coordinate action plans among related agencies. For instance, coordination of use and protection of the Biscayne and Floridan Aquifers (by the County’s Water and Sewer Department (WASD) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)) is of critical importance to address the impact of salt water intrusion on the fresh drinking water supply and on vegetation, including agriculture, in the County. The protection of drinking water quality/purity implies increasing the groundwater level to maintain hydrostatic water pressure landside to counter the sea’s rise. Higher groundwater changes stormwater drainage functionality and increases inland vulnerability to flooding. The Committee also began initial discussions about how some current capital projects could be impacted by sea level rise and targeted those issues for further discussion and possible future recommendations - for instance, the planning of the new Port Tunnel and how to incorporate the implications of sea level rise projections.

On this critical issue -- that seven years later appears to be bubbling to the surface -- the county commission did little.

In a 2010 letter, Miami Dade environmental groups wrote to then County Commission Chair Dennis Moss pleading to consider sea level arise among issues of concern in the periodic review of the county master development plan: "... the climate change/sea level rise language is not strong enough to appropriately plan for mitigation and adaption strategies."

So what is different, seven years after the completion of a study requiring thousands of hours of volunteer time and county staff work?

On the one hand, the proposed resolution the Monestine resolution acknowledges sea level rise will impact development in Miami-Dade.

On the other hand, the resolution appears to be doing little more than pass the buck to the mayor who happens to be running a reelection campaign, significantly depending -- as usual -- on contributions from the development community. This leads to a question: is global warming still a political hot potato to be passed back and forth until rising waters force relocation or is local government ready to require that sea level rise be part of the equation to zone future development and direct taxpayer investment.

For the poetical disinclined, the final stanza of TS Eliot's, "The Hollow Men" may need to be etched at the entrance to County Hall:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Miami-Dade County resolution on sea level rise


Anonymous said...

In Miami Beach you are looking at massive over development. Miami Beach flooded 20 years ago with 1" per hour rain. We are talking rain. Not tide levels. Miami Beach city officials already went on record that the pumps are only intended to drain the water quicker, but cannot eliminate flooding. To pay for the pumps the city has to allow more development. Brilliant. Yes, Miami Beach mayor went on record that the city needs more development to guarantee payment and federal protection for all these projects.

Anonymous said...

I guess the County wouldn't want the study to come out before they close the deal on the 90 year lease of Port Miami land. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article32259387.html

It might reveal the developers had just leased bay bottom within a decade. How much longer can this charade go on?

cyndi said...

It's going to be ignored until people are floating around homeless and then the GOP will find someway to blame it on the homeless people.

Anonymous said...

Under the Strong Mayor form of county government, it does not matter what resolutions or policies are adopted by the Commission. If the Mayor does not give a damn, nothing will happen. An entire year has almost passed since the Commission adopted a flurry of resolutions to advance the findings of the latest Task Force on Climate Change. Mayor Gimenez just signed a series of meaningless Memorandums to provide a status report on implementation - he effectively wiped his ass with the board policy statements and has not done one f**king thing. Time to sell the ranch and head for higher ground - this place is doomed.

Anonymous said...

Global warming/climate change/ rising sea levels will soon make Miami properties worthless. I am willing to help out by buying Miami properties for 30 cents on the dollar now.