With Miami Beach set to break ground this year on the most ambitious piece yet of its aggressive anti-flooding project, some homeowners worry that raising streets to keep them dry will cause flooding on their properties.
Massive pumps that flush floodwater from Miami Beach into Biscayne Bay during seasonal king tides are dumping something else into the bay: human waste. A study that looked at tidal floodwater and water discharged from the island’s new pumps during the 2014 and 2015 king tides found live fecal bacteria well above state limits. In one case, levels were more than 600 times the limit. While some of the fecal matter was dog waste, scientists found higher levels of human waste that likely enter floodwaters from leaky old sewer lines or septic tanks.
Several streets in South Beach flooded during a storm the night of Oct. 3, 2016. This video shows flooding outside Pubbelly Restaurant at the corner of Purdy Avenue and 20th Street. The city said the severe flooding in Sunset Harbour resulted from a manufacturer’s defect with one pump and construction near another leaving only one pump working where there should have been six operating.
This year’s seasonal king tides swelled again Thursday morning in South Florida, boosted by offshore currents from Hurricane Nicole. The king tide topped seawalls, rose through storm drains and crept up oceanfront parks at the tide’s peak, creating images that underscore concerns about the impacts of sea level rise on Florida’s coastal communities.
Miami Beach has spent tens of millions raising streets in the low-lying Sunset Harbour neighborhood to prevent rising tides from flooding the area. That left some establishments a few feet down at a lower sidewalk level. Unknown to their owners, their businesses are also at a level not usually seen in South Florida: the basement.
It’s time to mourn Miami, for as Stan and Paul Cox grimly explain in the New Republic, climate change is submerging the city we used to know. No U.S. metropolitan area is experiencing the effects of global warming more viscerally.
While Miami Beach leads the region in building resiliency to rising tides, the effort to fast-track the massive project also has wound up doing an end-run around the normal process for issuing government contracts. The Miami Beach Commission has waived the public process of seeking low bids in two projects, approving expensive changes under emergency authority. Some critics wonder if the rush to get things done has cost taxpayers.
Clouds of murky water near a stormwater pump at the west edge of South Beach has again alarmed residents and raised questions of the improved drainage system’s impact on Biscayne Bay.
Last fall as Miami Beach triumphantly drained its streets, beating back seasonal King Tide flooding that has come to symbolize the perils of climate change, scientists got a different view of what the future may hold: one of the world’s most celebrated beaches surrounded by water too foul for swimming.
The sea started boiling up into the street. A major Miami Beach road was under water. Tourists sloshed to hotels through saltwater up to their shins, pants rolled up, suitcases in one hand, shoes in the other. But one corner of Miami Beach stayed perfectly dry. In Sunset Harbour, which has historically flooded during seasonal high tides, the water was held at bay last month by a radically re-engineered streetscape that will be put to the test again this week with another king tide.
The tides are rising this week in South Beach, and everyone’s watching to see whether newly installed pumps will control the flooding. During this week’s king tide, city officials hope to avoid the familiar scenes of people wading in ankle-deep waters and cars splashing down Alton Road and West Avenue.
Throughout Donald Trump’s campaign for President, he repeatedly promised to build a wall along our Southern border to stymie the flow of illegal immigration (and coax Mexico into paying for it). But as a businessman and a real estate developer, perhaps President-elect Trump should consider devoting his attention to a far more rational and productive project: protecting Florida’s fragile coastline from the threats of climate change and sea level rise.
Everglades restoration scored a major victory over the weekend when Congress approved a long-awaited waterworks bill. The $10 billion bill comes at the end of a year filled with water woes that wilted Florida Bay and left Treasure Coast estuaries coated in slimy green algae, and includes authorization for the Central Everglades Planning Project. The $1.9 billion project, which splits the tab between the state and federal government, is intended to speed up work critical to reviving the flow of water south to keep marshes healthy and help fend off saltwater intrusion threatening South Florida’s water supplies.
When Floridians narrowly voted for Donald Trump on Nov. 8, they might as well have elected to drown themselves. Rising seas and accelerating storms are inundating this low-lying state, but a majority of its citizens still chose a presidential candidate who calls climate change a hoax.