Encourage resilient & sustainable development in coastal areas

Resilience involves enabling the Region to respond effectively to a major storm, recover quickly from it, and adapt to changing conditions, while also taking measures to reduce the risk of significant damage in a future storm. Sustainability involves ensuring the long-term viability of the people and economy of the region and its natural ecosystems, which requires consideration of the risks posed by a changing climate, the practicality of maintaining a long-term presence in the most vulnerable areas, and the need to protect and restore the natural ecosystems.”

The statement above, which came from the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, applies to Southeast Florida also. The same resiliency and sustainability issues faced in the northeastern U.S. are important to Southeast Florida. Miles of naturally protective coastal dunes, mangroves and other parts of a “living shoreline” have been removed and replaced with urban development including sea walls, high rise buildings, roads, rail systems and even public utilities.

The geology of Southeast Florida also provides challenges to responding to the potentially damaging combination of normal tides, storm surges and sea level rise. If the impacts of these three situations are combined with large rainfall events, the results can be catastrophic damage to the natural and built environment. The porous nature of the limestone which under- lies Southeast Florida allows water to move underground when coastal water levels increase. Therefore, sea walls and other revetments and coastal barrier construction techniques will not prevent inland flooding when seas rise whether it is due to a hurricane or long-term sea level rise. The solution to ensuring resilient and sustainable development in Southeast Florida will involve a menu of short-, medium- and long-term initiatives such as rebuilding our natural dunes and wetlands, building our structures at higher elevations, providing “forward pumping” water control structures along the coast, and using deep well injection technology to prevent saltwater intrusion.

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