With the election just days away, and a massive focus on the General Obligation Bond, it is important not to lose sight of what we would like to achieve. The bond will offer options for financing in order to protect our island.
The present consensus is that the funds will be used for resiliency and hardening issues. A 5 to 2 vote by the council will get a project up for discussion and begin vetting by our residents. If the residents truly don’t agree, a referendum would shift the direction.
These are all important issues that need to be addressed. But we want to make sure we do not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Please take a moment to focus on key factors of the resiliency projects that need to be discussed. First, the beach and weather is a major driving force for families who move to the key. It is also the precious value of our village and it's real estate. There is still much to do on this front.
The sand continues to recede five feet per year; there has been little progress for a more stable design, and the Army Corp of Engineers has not committed to including us on the shoreline project. We need to begin preparations to design, fund and maintain our beach should the federal plan not come to fruition – supplementing a more effective plan. In addition, there has to be a process in which we repel and remove the sargassum build up during the summer months. Finally, the dunes have been a great addition that need to be maintained and fortified.
Regarding flooding, our water table is rising. Spending $40 million on storm drainage infrastructure and pumping water into the bay only affords a temporary solution. Not to mention the runoff is actively destroying our precious bay and ocean. There have been suggestions of using a previous material to mitigate flooding, but the truth is that with a high water table this will not work. This technique requires a bed of aggregate beneath it to absorb the water that would be saturated from a rising water table and our porous ground.
Furthermore we have built ourselves into a very dense community -- top 1% in the nation. Over building, sidewalks, over paving, lot coverage - all contribute to our flooding. I know you may say that septic tanks, sewer plants, and farming in the south all contribute, and of course no one is at fault. We have to stop this and take at least our responsibility and stop ignoring the issue.
Viable solutions will probably involve sophisticated engineering and design including raising the streets and homes, bolstering water retention areas, and drastically updating current building/zoning codes. The most important issue will be the design, plan, implementation, and commitment by our residents.
Finally, the hardening of our utilities and services should also be addressed. It’s hard to understand how we in South Florida do not utilize solar. Undergrounding has to answer the question of flooding, response time, and street raising. The utility company should play a larger role in the solutions of hardening.
To conclude, there is a great opportunity to set an example and protect our island paradise. It will not be easy or cheap. But it is certainly worth it.