Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sea level rise threatens historic St. Augustine: Action News Jacksonville

Posted: 6:13 p.m. Monday, May 11, 2015
Sea level rise threatens historic St. Augustine

In this Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 photo a sea wall separating the Matanzas River and U.S. Highway 1 is seen, in St. Augustine, Fla. St. Augustine is one of many chronically flooded Florida communities afraid their buildings and economies will be inundated by rising seas in just a couple of decades. (AP Photo/John Raoux)(photo is actually of seawall on SR A1A, not U.S. 1)

By Alyana Gomez
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — There are new concerns about rising sea levels and the effect they could have on St. Augustine's historic district.

Researchers suggest America's oldest city is slowly drowning but Action News is learning that the city is already making preparations to defend against rising sea levels.

Recent construction changes to the sea wall in St. Augustine was the city's first step in preparing to defend its historic structures from drowning decades from now. Parts of the sea wall were built about two feet above the current sea wall.

"It's at water level. I mean, there's only about a foot-and-a-half difference from high tide to extreme tide where it starts flooding the back streets in St. Augustine," said neighbor Steve Pettengill.

Neighbors living in the nation's oldest city are far too familiar with flooding issues now. City manager John Regan said aging infrastructure coupled with rising waters are to blame.

"Some of our pipes are older and undersized and sometimes the sea level is high and it slows the rate of drainage," said Regan.

We're told the city has been putting in what's called one way valves to help with that.

"On the storm water drains, we put a valve that only allows water to flow one way and when the high tide comes in it presses on the other side of the valve and closes it like a little flapper," said Regan.

Small steps of improvements, but with the threat of sea level rise in neighbors' backyards, some want to see an action plan.

"I know I won't see it in my lifetime, but someone should be thinking about it and preparing to build higher," said Pettengill.

We're told bigger defensive projects are expensive and are part of the city's long term comprehensive plan. They just haven't put one together yet.

Regan said once the 450th celebration is over, the city of St. Augustine will get together and find a better plan to defend the city against high sea level rise in the future.

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