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How The West Coast Is Planning For Rising Sea Levels And If It’s Enough

We plan for dinner and our weekends.

Jim Beever of Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council plans for rising sea levels.

“The U.S geological service set the elevations in our area back in the 1800’s and put monuments in where the sea level was,” said Beever, “Now you can go back to those metal monuments they put into the ground and water is over the top.”

Beever and the council have released a 56-page comprehensive plan on what Southwest Florida is going to do to prepare for the rising seas.

According to Daniel Noah of the National Weather Service, it’s not just Southwest Florida facing this problem.

“If you look at sea level rise, Miami Beach is the first place to really see the impact of what everyone else is going to feel in the next 50 years,” Noah told Hello SWFL, “So at high tide, you get heavy rain (and) the water has nowhere to go because all of our pipes were laid in the 1950’s and those pipes are getting water more often.”

The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council doesn’t want the same thing to happen here. They believe incentives for companies to develop eco-friendly fertilizer, sea walls, and natural barriers would prepare the Southwest Florida area better than Miami.

One city in Southwest Florida has already implemented these ideas to great success.

“The city of Punta Gorda is a leader in Florida,” explained Beever, “It’s the first in Florida. With everything from moisture reef systems that will protect against sea level rise down in their county parks to when they rebuild their public works facilities. They do it further inland rather than in the path where future sea level rise will occur.”

Beever said there is an economic benefit to the plans. Insurance companies have often lowered the rates for flooding and hurricanes in areas that have adopted these plans. But what worked in Punta Gorda won’t work in other areas. Inland counties like Hendry and Highlands have some issues to worry about.

“Higher precipitation, increasing drought, (and) increasing heat,” said Beever, “Threats to their communities from tropical diseases and exotic animal species. Whereas our coastal communities have sea levels on the mind, they have a much larger urban infrastructure to address.”

That’s a lot for communities to ponder about but they don’t have to solve everyone’s problems.

“Basically you’re not going to get all the counties together on one plan. It’s better to get each county to plan for itself,” he said.

Daniel Noah sees more urgency is needed.

“Climate change can be a hot button topic. Whether it’s manmade or natural it really doesn’t matter. We can measure sea level rise,” he said, “And it is rising and it will continue to rise. If we want to continue to live near the beach, we have to address the problem.”

The plan can be viewed on the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council website.