Atlantis will be a reality

Back in the early 1970s, an interesting and different song by Donovan called “Atlantis” hit the airwaves. It spoke of the destroyed world consumed by the sea. As sea level rises, the city of Miami will become a future Atlantis.

Earlier this week, on a PBS Newshour piece called “Will climate change turn Miami into a future Atlantis?”, Henry Briceno, a research scientist from Florida International University, used the phrase to define his city, “we are doomed.” Sadly, this is the second scientist I have heard define Miami’s future demise.

Hurricanes have caused Miami planners to build for strong winds. Yet, they have not paid enough attention to the encroaching seas. Miami is built on porous limestone, so sea water can more easily come in. Sunny day flooding has occurred more frequently and pumps and pipes attempt to take the water back out to the bay. It is even worse during the spring and fall when the moon’s impact on tides is stronger.

Miami’s Dade County and three adjacent counties are investing $200 million to recycle the water back to the bay. Yet, It is not enough and maybe too late. New Orleans is taking advice from Denmark on their water management lessons, but Miami’s limestone is a huge problem. Plus, the sea water will find its way into the Biscayne aquifer which will cause drinking water issues.

This is no longer a future issue. Sunny day flooding causes the streets of Miami Beach to be several inches deep in sea water quite often. Other coastal cities are seeing more sunny day flooding, as well.

Future models show an alarming picture for Miami and the Everglades. Sadly, too many are turning a blind’s eye. In the sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore and the Miami Beach mayor were standing in flooded streets, while the governor would not take their calls after asking staff to never use the term climate change. You would think the governor of a state surrounded on three sides by water would be concerned about climate change.

Donovan’s song may need to be re-released. Or, maybe the words can be updated for new coastal cities like Miami.

Miami 2017 – Billy Joel may need to change the ending with the encroaching seas

In one of Billy Joel’s more memorable songs written in the 1970s, “Miami 2017” sometimes referred to as “The Night the lights went out on Broadway,” he sings of how everyone moved away from New York to Miami when it got so bad there. Here are the concluding lyrics: You know those lights were bright on Broadway. But that was so many years ago… Before we all lived here in Florida. Before the mafia took over Mexico. There are not many who remember. They say a handful still survive… To tell the world about… The way the lights went out. And keep the memory alive…

However, Joel may need to change the song ending as Miami is being encroached upon by the sea and it is not anticipated to let up. Per a PBS Newshour news article led by Kwame Holman, sea water is now coming up through the sewage system into the streets, the only place the water can escape. And, unlike Hurricane Sandy that leveraged off the rising seas to wreak havoc, this is happening without a hurricane, which makes it even more scary. Here is a link to the article:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/south-florida-rising-sea-levels/

I am not implying Miami will be under water by 2017, but I am saying that the predictions of a meter rise in the seas (between 39 and 40 inches) by the end of the century, may be too optimistic. Miami’s Dade County has been joined by three other adjacent counties to plan for the rising sea. Per the article, Eric Carpenter of Miami Beach Public Works Department said, “We have done our storm water management master plan that was adopted in 2012, and that had identified approximately $200 million worth of improvements that we needed to do over the next 20 years in order to keep pace with sea level rise and addressing flooding concerns within the city of Miami Beach.”

Per Holman, “Miami Beach is not alone in addressing sea level rise. South Florida has become a model for regional cooperation on this issue. Projections by a four-county climate change compact were turned into an action plan with more than 100 recommendations. Those now are being reviewed. Some have been adopted by county governments. Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs has been at the forefront of South Florida climate change discussions and has earned national recognition for her work.”

The dilemma is the $200 million estimated fix will likely not be near enough, some thinking it may need to be doubled. Miami is right at sea level, so any rise of significance will be problematic. Yet, the fact four counties have joined together to discuss the problem and identify action steps is encouraging. The logical concern is how to pay for what needs to be done. So, mapping that funding strategy must be a key part of the equation.

Several states have accepted reports of the 39 inch plus sea level rise – Virginia, Louisiana are two that come to mind. Unfortunately, I sit in a state that refused to accept such a report and would only accept one that projected forward off the previous 100 years’ results. So, North Carolina is hoping the seas only rise by 8 inches by the end of the century. North Carolina is literally holding back the sea with legal briefs. I applaud South Florida for doing what we are not in NC. Climate change is real, we are seeing it already and we need to do something about it. I hope that other communities share Miami’s concern and plan accordingly.