FL - Feds vow to fast track plan to raise Miami homes, protect businesses from flooding
South Florida could get more flood protection from the federal government sooner than expected, after the Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday an accelerated plan to accomplish its coastal flood protection strategy.
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor made the announcement in front of an audience gathered for the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit, the 15th annual gathering of South Florida local governments trying to address the rising threat of climate change and sea level rise.
Connor said the Corps aims to break its plan for protecting Miami-Dade’s coast, known as the Back Bay study, into phases. The goal is to draw up an initial plan by June 2024 — in time to ask for congressional funding next year. That first phase, he said, would likely involve the aspects of the coastal protection plan most popular with Miami-Dade residents so far — elevating thousands of private homes and adding flood protections for hundreds of important buildings, like hospitals, fire stations and wastewater treatment plants.
“It’s an effort to address risk as quickly as we can, even as we work on the larger plan,” he told the Miami Herald. “We’ve done this in various ways, shapes and forms before, so why don’t we accept that in this era of changing climate and shifting risk, we act in the moment.”
Connor compared the Miami-Dade plan to Everglades Restoration, a two-decades-long saga of studies, projects and funding that aim to revive Florida’s historic wetlands.
“Let’s demonstrate to the community that we can move forward with projects they do see as valuable and build on that success,” he said.
Jim Murley, the county’s chief resilience officer, said protecting Miami-Dade’s critical infrastructure has always been the county’s priority, so they support the Corps’ plan to speed things along.
“It does accelerate the opportunity to bring benefits to parts of our community,” he said.
Speeding things up, in terms of the engineering arm of the federal government, would amount to shaving about two years off what could be a multi-decade-long process. If the Corps successfully delivers a report to Congress in 2024 with an estimate for how many buildings need to be raised or floodproofed, along with an estimated price tag, the legislature could approve continued planning and design for those elevations as soon as 2025.
Finishing that planning, then going back to Congress for money to make it happen, then actually building and elevating all those structures, could take more than a decade.
By 2026, officials say they hope to have another report — and another request for cash — ready for Congress. This time, the report would likely include the more complicated side of coastal protections, what to use to armor the coast.
The Corps’ original plan was to line Miami-Dade’s coast with tall walls and gates at the mouths of its rivers and canals. But after public pushback on the unsightliness of the walls and regulatory agencies questioning whether such an idea could ever be permitted, the Corps and County went back to the drawing board.