Thursday, February 11, 2010

South Florida's floodgates vulnerable to rising sea levels

Andy Reid in the Sun Central (Florida): Rising sea levels already threaten South Florida's coastal floodgates, likely prompting the need for costly retrofits to protect some of the state's most populated areas, water managers warned Wednesday. While worldwide debate continues over the potential long-term effects of climate change, the South Florida Water Management District on Wednesday identified 28 flood-control structures along the southeast coast that it considers vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Flood control structures in Broward and Miami-Dade counties are at the most immediate risk, according to the district. South Florida needs to wake up to the problems of climate change, Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs said Wednesday at a meeting in West Palm Beach of South Florida water managers. The group was shown pictures from an "extreme" high tide in September that was eight inches higher than usual, breeching a seawall on Las Olas Isles.

"This isn't some 100-year scenario we are talking about," Jacobs said. "The impacts are [happening] now." Long-term, scientific models project a 5- to 20-inch sea level rise in South Florida due to climate change during the next 50 years, according to the water management district's ongoing analysis.

But South Florida already has experienced periods of extreme high tides where sea levels rise higher than the point where stormwater water from coastal drainage canals would normally get dumped out to sea, said Jayantha Obeysekera, who is leading the district's response to climate change….

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