Sunday, March 26, 2017
"Advocacy group part of St. Augustine’s sea level rise efforts" (SAR)
THANK YOU, MAYOR SHAVER. In 2014, The St. Augustine Record endorsed your predecessor, Mayor JOE BOLES, saying it desired "business as usual." We, the People defeated BOLES. The Record endorsed you in 2016, seeing the light at last. Mayor Shaver: thank you for not being "business as usual" -- you are the answer to many of the hopes, prayers and aspirations of the good people of St. Augustine, Florida. Venceremos1
Posted March 26, 2017 06:41 am - Updated March 26, 2017 09:42 am
As St. Augustine officials dip their toes into sea level rise planning, one of the main issues is uncertainty.
“We are in a position of not knowing exactly how much and not knowing exactly when, but it’s our job to take the best data that is available and do the best planning we can,” Mayor Nancy Shaver said. “And that’s what everyone has to do.”
While there’s a measure of uncertainty, the city is part of a state study on sea level rise and is already trying to address coastal flooding.
In addition to other efforts by the city, Shaver recently joined a group called Resiliency Florida, a fledgling 501c4 that’s dedicated to education and sharing information about planning for sea level rise and with extreme weather events.
“One of my next steps is going to be reaching out to elected officials in surrounding counties to make them aware of it,” said Shaver, adding that much of the activity in Florida governments related to sea level rise has been concentrated in southern Florida.
The nonprofit advocacy group, which stemmed from requests by St. Augustine and Monroe County officials to form the group, is aimed at getting people to plan sfor sea level rise and severe weather events, said Pepper Uchino, an interim board member.
“Our organization is dedicated to getting ahead of the issue … so that catastrophes don’t materialize in the future,” Uchino said.
The board hasn’t officially sat for the first time, but when it does, Shaver will be the vice chair, Uchino said. Uchino is a member of Anfield Consulting, which lobbies for the city and Monroe County.
The group expects to have eight local government representatives from Florida (but no two from the same county), as well as some non-voting private sector members, he said.
At home, the city has already been moving forward for some time with the investigation and planning stage. Reports have shown a range of projections for sea level rise for the city consider, as well as a large number of “what if’” scenarios for impacts on the city.
In 2016, the University of Florida produced a report about effects of sea level rise in the city of 1, 3 and 5 feet over the “mean higher high water” mark, which is an average of high tide numbers for years, according to the study. The report, which the city budgeted $15,000 for, drew from existing projections on sea level rise.
The report said sea level rise could be 0.25 to 6.67 feet within the next 15 to 85 years.
At 3 feet of sea level rise, 18 of the city’s lift stations and 437 of the city’s manholes would be impacted, along with residential areas in western and northern parts of Anastasia Island, according to the report.
Also, a pilot program has opened the door for further study in St. Augustine.
In June, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity finished an assessment of the city’s vulnerability to sea level rise.
The study, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is studying three communities for how they can become more resilient against coastal flooding, according to a report.
Now the department is finishing a plan that will help the city prioritize and plan sea level rise projects.
A draft of the DEO’s adaptation plan says that the city’s wastewater treatment plant is vulnerable to flooding and is expected to become more vulnerable, among a number of other issues the report addresses. It recommends the city start looking at options for dealing with the vulnerability before they have to.
The options are expensive, the report says.
“What we would do is think strategically on a very long-term basis to do short-term-type things over time,” said Martha Graham, public works director.
There are also smaller-scale recommendations to help with coastal flooding. One is to relieve the burden on the city’s stormwater system by encouraging property owners to use less impervious (non-water-penetrable) surfaces.
The city is moving forward on a nuisance-flooding related project, a more than $600,000 effort to upgrade infrastructure in Davis Shores to help prevent tidal flooding.
Graham said people in the city should expect to hear more about sea level rise planning in the future, and she hopes they will be engaged.
“They’re going to be asked to provide their comments, their input,” Graham said.
Areas farther south are having to act faster to deal with flooding.
In the Miami area, officials are planning for a $100-million effort over two years to combat street flooding from sea level rise, according to the Miami Herald. The funding will go toward raising roads and sewer and water upgrades in a couple of neighborhoods as part of a larger effort in the city overall, which is estimated to cost up to $500 million, according to the story.
Costs like that are out of reach of the city of St. Augustine, where the total budget is less than $60 million.
Shaver said that’s the case for many coastal communities in Florida, where “there are very few cities that can marshal the resources” to deal with major sea level rise projects on their own.
Right now, the city doesn’t know for sure what will be affected and how soon.
That’s why information sharing and planning is so important between communities, and that’s the stage the city is at, she said.
“It’s prudent for us to do that,” Shaver said. “It’s prudent for us to learn everything we can learn. It’s prudent for us to share information with other municipalities and just be as in the best possible place to make sure that St. Augustine survives another 450 years.”