Miami's sea level rise bill -- $4 billion by 2060 -- still won't keep every neighborhood dry

Alex Harris, The Miami Herald on

Published in Weather News

MIAMI — Miami has to spend at least $3.8 billion in the next 40 years to keep the city dry from rising seas, according to a draft of the city's long-awaited and newly released stormwater master plan.

That will buy a hundred new mega stormwater pumps, miles of 6-foot tall sea walls, thousands of injection wells and a network of underground pipes so big and wide even the tallest NBA player could stroll through them without bumping his head.

Even then, it won't be enough to save every neighborhood. And it's not because it's too expensive, although that's part of it.

"There are some areas where you run the model now and you plug in the recommended pump stations and outfalls and wells, you will find minimal to no change with hundreds of millions of infrastructure," said Chris Bennett, the city's deputy chief resilience officer. "There are cases where your engineering solutions just won't provide you any benefit."

The answer, the report suggests, is to retreat from those places and armor the rest, to the tune of nearly $4 billion. The report is also a Florida Keys-style acknowledgment that despite billions of dollars (if you can even get them), it's impossible for the government to preserve everything. It also hints at a sci-fi future that could come decades after these investments: floating cities and converting roads to canals.

Miami Mayor Frances Suarez announced the release of the new report, the product of consultant CDM Smith, in a Thursday press conference at City Hall.


"The most common question I get asked is whether Miami is going to be here in 50 years, whether it's going to be here in 100 years," he said. "This is the beginning of having a comprehensive plan to answer that question in the affirmative."

When this project started two years ago, planners wanted to know how to keep the city dry for the next 50 years. At the time, that meant building for the 18 to 30 inches of sea level rise expected by 2070.

Then the projections went up. Now, South Florida is planning to reach that level of sea rise by 2060.

John Englander, an oceanographer and author of Moving to Higher Ground, lauded the city's ambitious plan to engineer itself out of the worst flooding impacts.


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