Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force: Reinvent Urban Infrastructure or Lose Trillions | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force: Reinvent Urban Infrastructure or Lose Trillions

A year in the making and with a lead-in quote from techno-visionary Buckminster Fuller, Miami-Dade County's Sea Level Rise Task Force today made public its final report and recommendations to county leaders.

See also: Sea Level Rise: Will Cities Be Held Liable for Failure to Plan?

In the report's introductory letter, Task Force Chair Harvey Ruvin, Miami-Dade clerk of the courts, describes sea level rise as a "measurable, trackable, and relentless" consequence of climate change that, lacking "innovative adaptive capital planning," will "threaten trillions of dollars of the region's built environment" as well as its water supply, natural resources, agricultural soils, and basic economy.

The Task Force was created by the County Commission in July 2013 to "review the relevant data and prior studies" to provide a "comprehensive and realistic assessment of the likely and potential [future] impacts of sea level rise."

The assessment is to help steer future changes to the county's Comprehensive Development Master Plan, capital facilities planning, and budgeting so that the county can minimize its carbon footprint and -- as sea level rise is baked in the cake -- "ensure its resiliency."

The Task Force report includes six major recommendations to Miami-Dade officials:

1) Hire engineers and other experts to vet the elements of the infrastructure plan -- the actual physical features like flood control devices and pump stations, as well as road and bridge design. (The report calls this the "critical first step.")

2) Update and implement the suggestions of the Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force, which met from 2006 through 2010 and produced a set of 57 recommendations for adaptation of "natural systems, built environment, health and economic systems, as well as a series of Green House Gas mitigation recommendations."

3) Follow through on the County Commission's May 6 resolution that requires all county infrastructure projects to "consider the potential impact of sea level rise during all project phases" and evaluate existing infrastructure in regard to sea level rise.

4) Join with the South Florida Water Management District and the Southeast Florida Climate Compact to "conduct a comprehensive study and develop adaptation strategies" to address sea level rise's potential for flood damage and saltwater intrusion.

5) Make Everglades restoration a "top priority" of the county's lobbying efforts [things are not looking so great for the River of Grass] and "utilize and fully fund" the county's Environmentally Endangered Lands Program.

6) In the face of skyrocketing insurance rates ("the 'cruelest tax of all'"), work with private insurance and reinsurance pros and with other official bodies to "develop long-term risk management solutions."

The Task Force report concludes with a "follow the money" warning:

With trillions of dollars of built environment and invaluable natural resources at stake in the region, the economic imperative to take action sooner rather than later is clear. WE BELIEVE THAT WITHOUT A PROFESSIONALLY WELL THOUGHT OUT ADAPTATION PLAN IN PLACE, WE RISK LOSING INSURABILITY AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR OUR FUTURE.

(Here's that introductory quote from Buckminster Fuller, as conveyed in Task Force Chair Ruvin's prologue to the report: "The potentially empowering capacity to be able to 'foresee and forestall' is what ultimately distinguishes the human species from all others."

We couldn't confirm the attribution, and we don't know how or if Ruvin did. But if it spurs sound action on climate change, we're down with it.)

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact [email protected]