As sustainability becomes a prevalent issue for local governments, Municipalities and Counties both are realizing a ‘sustainable’ future is dependent on shared experiences and efforts. Reported here is the beginning of inter-agency efforts to learn from and assist each other’s experiences. South Florida’s shores, our dune lines and environmental health does not stop at imaginary geographical and political borders….Kudos are extended to this group for forging efforts at a comprehensive plan to preserve the natural beauty and resources for residents and visitors alike. Collaborative planning can and should be employed across city and county boundaries.
If we have learned anything these past few months it has been without a doubt how vulnerable we are to the forces of nature.
It is apparent that in our zeal to build along the waterfront, not enough has been done to prevent compromising our fragile ecosystem and develop resiliency. On that note, a number of residents, council/commission members and professionals in the field boarded Delray Yacht Cruises Lady Atlantic for Grey and Green Shorelines: Charting Coastal Resilence, an educational event sponsored by the City of Delray Beach’s Office of Sustainability.
Recognizing we are literally all in this boat together there were elected officials and representatives from neighboring municipalities. In attendance from Boca Raton was Councilwoman, Andrea Levine O’Rourke, Monica Mayotte-new candidate challenging Robert Weinroth’s seat and Margaret Fitzsimons of Boca Green Advisory Board. Next up from Delray Beach was Mayor Cary Glickstein, Commissioners Jim Chard, Shirley Johnson, Mitch Katz and Shelly Petrolia, the latter two running for Commissioner and Mayor respectively. Mayor Steven Grant from Boynton Beach and Councilman Don Magruder from Ocean Ridge also were present.
It is without a doubt our communities share a vested interest in mitigating greenhouse gases that lead to the predicaments we now face.
Learning about the tools that can achieve community resilience was a fundamental reason for this meeting which took place on the very waters where we need to solve the most visible problems. In fact, we all share the challenge as neighboring towns, and we owe it to ourselves to get it right to avoid future damage.
These challenges cross municipal boundaries, as did the experts who boarded the ship with us to focus on ‘Charting Coastal Resilience’ in light of King Tides. Dr. Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, Delray Beach’s Sustainability Officer organized the program with very informative speakers, and purposely located it on the very waters which were the subject of the talks as we headed south from Delray’s dock. The purpose, per the brochure we were given, was to “increase awareness of climate change impacts and approaches to mitigation.”
Some of the highlights included speaker Dr. Nancy Gassman, Assistant Public Works Director for the City of Fort Lauderdale. Dr. Gassman implements sustainability, climate mitigation and adaption strategies throughout the city. Her focus was addressing sea level rise projection at the municipal level, and she even brought a tidal valve that the city uses in its infrastructure. She also spoke of their Seawall Ordinance, which intends to ensure that there are no cracks or breaches which would compromise the neighborhoods. She stressed the importance to the elected officials to allocate funds for the projects for protection. Interestingly, Gassman also cited communities out west as being at risk, because when there are “wetter wets” the canals are unable to effectively discharge water.
Laura Geselbracht of The Nature Conservancy is a Marine Scientist assessing how nature can help protect us from extreme events like Hurricane Irma, the strongest recorded hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. She cited mangroves as one of the defenses protecting seawalls just as Lady Atlantic glided past what looked like a dense forest at the water’s edge. Using nature as a protective device for our shoreline seemed ingenious and viable. Go to coastalresilence.org. to learn more.
As Dr. Diana Mitsova, Associate Professor at FAU’s School of Urban and Regional Planning attested, these are in essence living shorelines. She discussed various types of shoreline stabilization options. Besides the traditional grey infrastructure like sea walls, she pointed out to other protective measures including enhancement of the shorelines with vegetation or construction of ripraps. Riprap revetments offer protection with the added benefit of improving habitat quality by serving as nursing beds for fish and allowing mangroves self-recruitment. However depending on the location, constructing ripraps may pose challenges and increase costs, as construction materials may have to be brought by a barge. In further support of riprap, Eric Anderson from Palm Beach County Environmental Services said, “put rock down and oysters will come” because they need the right height and the rocks in the form of rip rap solve that problem.
Last but not least, Jeff Needle, Delray Beach’s Stormwater Program Manager discussed assessing sea wall vulnerability, and various drainage projects to alleviate flooding and upgrade infrastructure. He too acknowledged the accelerated rise of sea levels and the impacts on walls, pipes and through the ground.
By the end of this very informative cruise, it was obvious that our communities need to pool the best ideas and people to create a cooperative network that will benefit us all.