Flood Waters In Jacksonville, Florida At A 53-Year High (YouTube)

Guest column: Jacksonville needs to embrace resilience against flooding risks

Like all cities, Jacksonville faces an expanding list of challenges.

From the effects of sea-level rise to neglected neighborhoods. From the opioid crisis to high murder rates. From substandard schools to cyber-attacks. Other cities are improving their capacities to proactively adapt and grow regardless of the kinds of stresses or shocks they experience. But our approach is largely reactive.

The proactive approach exemplifies urban resilience. It is holistic. It looks at systems that make up a city or region. It looks at how the systems are interdependent and the risks they face going forward. It strengthens cities to face expected and unexpected challenges.

In the business world it would be called forward-looking risk management. Success often depends on how well a company can look to the future and prepare for emerging risks and other impacts on its business. When a risk event occurs, the company is better able to adapt. Its risk exposure is limited and it saves money.

Some city departments and authorities are trying to strengthen our ability to deal with shocks and stresses to our city. So is the Northeast Florida Regional Council, Groundwork Jacksonville, and some others. Mostly, though, they are limited and stove-piped. For instance, the JEA uses one set of estimates to prepare its facilities for rising water levels in the St. Johns River. But an urban resilience approach might see the city, developers and businesses working together and applying a standard estimate throughout Jacksonville.

Other cities have embraced the idea of implementing broad strategies to increase their resilience.

St. Louis, with 188 murders in 2016, lists fighting crime as its top resilience priority. It also lists aging infrastructure and racial, economic and social inequitiesas well as the interrelationships between these issues.

Nashville, another river city, highlights vulnerabilities to flooding and rapid economic and population growth. Its resilience strategy recognizes that it must build social cohesion between new and existing communities.

Norfolk, a port and military city, is particularly vulnerable to coastal flooding. Like Jacksonville, Norfolk was one of 32 cities initially selected to participate in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities network. Three years ago, Jacksonville withdrew. Norfolk remained and has leveraged its resilience work to acquire more than $100 million in external investment.

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