Village holds first of three stormwater Town Hall meeting

Are you tired of the streets flooding after heavy rain storms? Do king tides worry you? Are global warming and higher sea levels cause for concern with your property?

Then you will be pleased to know something is being done about it.

The Village of Key Biscayne, led by Manager Steve Williamson and supported by Dr. Roland Samimy, Chief Resilience Officer, and Jake Ozyman, Director of Public Works, are working closely with AECOM, Key Biscayne’s stormwater design engineers, to initiate a multi-year stormwater infrastructure upgrade.

The initiation of the Village’s program was kicked off at a July 29 Town Hall meeting. Also attending was County Commissioner Raquel Regalato, whose presence underscored the county’s commitment to Key Biscayne’s resilience efforts.

The Village is planning for three Town Hall meetings to provide information to residents, but more importantly to obtain citizen feedback that will help guide the planning, design and construction of a stormwater management system.

The July 29 Town Hall was well attended in person and virtually. The second meeting will be held in September, with the third tentatively scheduled for November.

The stormwater upgrade falls within a broader resilience effort comprised of three main pillars:

1. Shoreline protection, which is Key Biscayne’s first line of defense to protect the beach, homes, businesses and the quality of life on the island.

2. Infrastructure hardening, which will improve reliability and safety of the electrical and telecommunications utilities.

3. Flood mitigation, which protects public and private property, enhances mobility through roadway improvements, andc reduces risk exposure.

So why this attention to stormwater now?

Key Biscayne has an aging system, which results in flooding. Additionally, updated projections from The Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact 2019 predicts 10 to 17 inches of sea level rise in the next 20 years.

“Sea level rise combined with intensifying rain events, add unsustainable challenges to the current stormwater system,” stated Samimy.

According to the engineering reports, the amount of rain the Village receives yearly significantly impacts the stormwater system. An average annual rainfall of 53.1 inches equates to approximately 1-billion gallons of water.

This water seeps into the ground or drains into the stormwater system and discharges into Biscayne Bay. The Village is responsible for conveying, storing, and treating stormwater.

The Village is dealing with more water from more frequent and intense rain events, but the current stormwater infrastructure is not sufficient to discharge the water as quickly as it arrives. The result is longer periods of inundation.

Samimy asked, “If we want no flooding ever, the cost would be prohibitive, so the question is what ‘level of service’ do we need, and how much water can we stand on the road?”

“Level of service” reflects the public’s tolerance for water on roadways, and is a basis for the design of the upgrades to stormwater piping.

For example, the community could reasonably expect no roadway flooding, no water reaching homes and buildings, and for the new stormwater system design to last at least 30 years.

The Village is assessing what needs to be done to address immediate concerns, and what needs too be done to ensure a resilient future of the island

“The stormwater infrastructure consists predominantly of an underground piping system with inlets, outlets, manholes, swales, pump stations, and retention ponds,” said Eason. “These elements are built within the public rights-of-way, easements, parks and any other public land.”

Some improvements being discussed included larger pipes, valley gutters, curbs, larger outfalls, and nature-based aspects such as vegetative swales and rain gardens.

“The Village stormwater system is currently predominantly driven by gravity,” Samimy said. “The infrastructure upgrade program will have to consider the inclusion of an array of pump stations to drive water discharges into the future.”

If you are interested in learning more about the stormwater system plans, attend the upcoming Town Halls in September and November. Watch for those dates in the Islander News calendar or the Village Connects newsletter.


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