Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Despite concerns, Florida development still heads to the coast

Curtis Morgan in the Miami Herald: As early as the 1980s, scientists warned that rising seas could submerge vast portions of Florida's coast. How have local and state governments responded? Build, baby, build. A new study of development trends along the Atlantic Coast shows Florida has opened more vulnerable areas to construction than any other state. Three-quarters of its low-lying Atlantic coastline has already been, or will be, developed.

Despite mounting evidence of sea level rise, other states plan to follow Florida's lead -- though to lesser degrees -- eventually pushing homes, condos and other buildings onto nearly two-thirds of coastal land less than a meter above the Atlantic. By 2100, many scientists predict a rise near or beyond a meter. Unlike some climate studies, however, this one doesn't suggest kayaks will be needed to navigate Miami or Manhattan.

Instead, it divides the coast into rural or wild areas likely to be abandoned, and urbanized areas likely to be forced to employ “increasingly ambitious” and expensive engineering to preserve real estate from encroaching ocean. Think dikes, levees, pumps, stilts, more dredging to rebuild eroded beaches and mountains of fill to raise roads and structures.

“A map that shows Miami completely under water may not be as realistic as Miami subjected to a lot of shore protection measures,” said Jim Titus, the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency's project manager for sea-level rise and the primary author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Co-author Daniel Trescott, a planner for the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, said the study is evidence that even as Congress debate how, and how much, to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it's mostly “business as usual” at ground level…

The view from Miami, looking across Bascayne bay towards Miami beach. The road is the Venetian Causeway. Shot by Bachrach44 , Wikimedia Commons

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