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Climate change: Florida cities are being built to combat rising seas. Small towns may struggle to protect themselves



His home here is located on a barrier island in the city and goes back to the intracoreal waterway that separates the island from mainland Florida .

At just six feet above sea level, he lives in one of the lowest places in all of Delray Beach, a wealthy city of 65,000 people, about an hour north of Miami.

For more than two decades, he has seen hurricanes send water that curves over his sea wall and into his lawn. But now every fall during the annual high tides, salt water creeps into his garden and stifles his plants, even when there are no storms.

In other quarters, these extreme tides carry water as far as the threshold of the inhabitants.

Delray Beach joins other cities in the region that are developing plans to respond to the threat of rising seas, and it finds that the necessary safeguards are extremely expensive .

Earlier this year, an engineering firm submitted a report to the Delray Beach City Commission that found that eliminating floods in the city's most vulnerable neighborhoods would cost approximately $ 378 million.

For a city that says it has an annual budget of $ 1

30 million, the cost came as a shock to many, including City Mayor Shelley Petrolia.

"There are concerns about how to pay for what needs to be done, but the good part about this is that we have at least an understanding of where we need to get," Petrolia said. "Many cities like ours have not even come to this."

Some believe that the question of how to pay for the defenses needed to avoid the rising seas could become a serious crisis for small towns and cities upstream and down the American coast. [19659010] Delray Beach received a report this year that would cost $ 378 million to eliminate floods in the most vulnerable areas. "data-src-mini =" // cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190829120246-11-florida-sea-level-rise-small-169.jpg "data-src-xsmall =" // cdn .cnn.com / cnnnext / dam / assets / 190829120246-11-florida-sea-level-rise-medium-plus-169.jpg "data-src-small =" http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/ dam / assets / 190829120246-11-florida-sea-level-rise-large-169.jpg "data-src-medium =" // cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190829120246-11-florida-sea -level-rise-exlarge-169.jpg "data-src-large =" // cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190829120246-11-florida-sea-level-rise-super-169.jpg " data-src-full16x9 = "// cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190829120246-11-florida-sea-level-rise-full-169.jpg" data-src-mini1x1 = "// cdn. cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190829120246-11-florida-sea-level-rise-small-11.jpg "data-demand-load =" not-loaded "data-eq-pts =" mini: 0, xsmall: 221, small: 308, medium: 461, large: 781 "src =" data: image / gif; base64, R0lGODlhEAAJAJEAAAAAAP /////// wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI + py + 0Po5yUFQA7 "/>

This is more than six times the requested 2019 budget for the US Department of Education.
They found Florida to be the most expensive state to protect, with an estimated $ 75 billion in climate costs, nearly double the next most expensive state, Louisiana.

The study also only estimated the cost of building the sea walls – not installing pumps and other more expensive flood control measures that many cities will need.

"We know from the way we conducted the survey that it was a low grade," Wiles said. "It will cost more than Florida State to ultimately build these defenses."

Delray 60 miles to the south is Miami Beach, which is even more vulnerable to rising seas, with almost no city in the city.

Over the past few years, $ 500 million has been spent building roads, installing pumping stations and improving rainwater drainage to keep it dry.

But with smaller tax bases than extracting it by paying for engineering solutions that cost hundreds of millions of dollars may not be possible for many cities.

  Many places in Miami, Miami Beach and the surrounding islands sit just feet above sea level. [19659010] Many places in Miami, Miami Beach and the surrounding islands sit just feet above sea level. climate through the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and other ag However, Wiles says what is available is not close to what is needed.

He says this is the price that will mostly come out of the pockets of taxpayers.

  Florida Special Hurricane Vulnerability

There are also questions about how long South Florida can take its way of this problem.

Over the centuries, the Dutch have developed a world-class system of canals, dykes and factories to keep their low cities from sinking under the waves.
Others, such as New York Staten Island, build massive sea walls to protect the island from a combination of storms and rising sea levels.

Some of these solutions are used in South Florida, but may not be as effective here.

This is because South Florida sits on what used to be an ancient coral reef and porous limestone beneath that part of the state, Jayantes Obisecker, director of the University of Florida's Maritime Decisions Center, is surrounded by natural underground "pipes" which allow the water to blow to the surface.

With sea levels projected to rise to six feet by 2100, Obeysekera says there may be a time when no amount of walls or pumps can prevent water from rising through the ground.
  This new sea wall was built in the sunlit Sunset Harbor neighborhood of Miami Beach. The city is spending $ 500 million to combat the threat of rising seas.

"There is a tipping point at which these decisions may not work," said Obisecker. "But it is very difficult to predict when this tipping point is, so I think it is reasonable to look at how long we can buy with these solutions."

Since receiving the report, Delray Beach says it has begun repairing pumping station and developing plans to protect two more of the most flood-prone neighborhoods.

There are many more things that will need to be done in the coming years, and some cities have begun to come together to share the costs of the climate crisis.

Delray Beach is one of 10 Palm Beach County cities that have joined the Palm Beach County Coastal Sustainability Partnership, a grant funded grant from the Florida Department of Environment that allows cities to pool resources and collectively assess their climate vulnerabilities.

Nancy Schneider, a former senior program officer for the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Treaty who also lives in Delray Beach, says she is confident that if the city budget is responsible and responsive to neighboring cities, save yourself from going underwater – literally and financially.

But without significant federal financial support, it will be difficult.

"This is necessary for us to stay in Florida," Schneider said. "I don't know if people really want to admit it yet."


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