FL - Guest Opinion: Storm Flooding, Sea Level Rise Must Be a Priority in Collier County

For many years local government and the private sector have shown relatively little concern about storm flooding and sea level rise (SLR) in Collier County.

Suddenly we have moved from famine to feast with two major ongoing efforts to assess present and anticipated future flooding risks and to recommend interventions to better protect us.

On the one hand, Collier County hosts the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) supported Adaptation of Coastal Urban and Natural Ecosystems (ACUNE) project involving University of Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University scientists.

ACUNE conducts modeling of risks from a range of high water conditions relating to SLR, storm surges, and exceptional high tides and the interactions between them.  The models provide foot by foot estimates throughout the county — inland and coastal — of their probable impacts.

An extremely important element of ACUNE is that it produces recommendations of what types of interventions are most promising for minimizing risk from higher water events at very specific locations.  For example, along the coast the modeling shows where it is best to give way to rising seas; where green infrastructure such as wider beaches, higher dunes and plantings are more appropriate protective measures; and where seawall like structures may be required.

Meanwhile the Collier County government Coastal Zone Management Section has entered into an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to approach the question of how best to protect Collier's coast.  Their focus is on storm surge protection rather than SLR and exceptionally high tides.  

The presence of two such efforts doubtless is an advance on previous inattention to growing threats to Collier beaches and near coastal infrastructure, not to mention salinization of aquifers and a host of flooding issues further inland.  However, a preliminary review of the documentation raises several disturbing questions about whether the two projects currently are well enough coordinated.

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