Prepare now for new flood maps

By Steve Estes

Our controlling state political party tends to spend a great deal of time ignoring science, particularly when that science deals with our minor problem of impending sea level rise.

But what the rest of us all know to be true is about to hit our controlling, science-denying leadership right where they least like to be hit. The wallet.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be visiting Monroe County, as well as Miami-Dade and Broward counties, next month to begin the public input process on a project that is designed to update that agency’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

Of course, science will be used to update those maps, and that means that sea level rise projections will come into play at some point.

Sea level rise that has already occurred, some nine to 10 inches over the last 50 years in these parts, has already changed our base flood elevations, changes that are not reflected in our current flood maps.

So now is the time for our local leadership to start implementing adaptive strategies for sea level rise if for no other reason than to stay ahead of the curve on flood insurance rates for the near term.

Long term, fighting Mother Nature is always a losing battle, but the good thing for us is that the federal government doesn’t take a private corporation view of the future.

Where private corporations plan for the next 30 years, governments usually only plan for the next five to 10 years. Or in the case of state leadership, the next five to 10 months.

There are already plans being put forward to go out and actively seek grant funding to help owners of ground-level homes and commercial buildings get ahead of sea level rise by raising the structures further above sea level.

Those efforts must continue and intensify in the coming years.

We’ve already been told by scientists around the world that while there will be seasons of mild hurricane activities, we can expect more major storms, and of those, storms that threaten ever-widening areas, pushing with those storms the all-too-real chance of increased storm surge.

In Monroe County, we have long built to standards that make it tough for wind to do catastrophic damage to our buildings, but as we learned during hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Hurricane Georges in 1998, the water that rushes in with the wind does more damage.

That’s why we pay flood insurance well above the national average.

Our local grassroots insurance advocacy group Fair Insurance Rates for Monroe has just begun to delve into the rising flood insurance crisis, but already we have learned that just because insurance companies make money on us we’re not immune from ridiculous rate increases.

Each time the flood maps have been adjusted, we have wound up paying higher premiums.

When sea level rise is factored in, we know we will be paying higher rates unless we begin adaptive strategies now.

Our local leadership has joined a three-county compact with our immediate neighbors to the north, and the goal is to develop an action plan to begin to combat sea level rise. This is a good choice for all three local governments, because it will be some time before our state leadership recognizes there is even a need to address the issue.

Actually, they know there’s a need to address the issue, but you can’t deny science in one breath and embrace it in the next.

What we’d like to see next from our local leadership is a plan for the next 10 years that incorporates sea level rise into all of our planning decisions. We have begun with the very low-hanging fruit, raising the level of roads by inches each time they are paved and building all new public facilities at the projected sea level rise over the anticipated life of the building.

What we haven’t done, because the private property rights advocates are so gung ho to sue anyone who tries to cut back the profit on land by a dollar, is mandate that any new construction in the projected area for sea level rise be built to combat that anticipated rise.

We haven’t waited for the sea to set the standard. We have been more proactive than most. But we must continue that stance, and intensify our efforts.

This new mapping effort from FEMA may well be the catalyst that forces us to face the issue in an even more proactive manner.

The homeowners here can’t afford to continue to subsidize those communities led by science-deniers, and our taxpayers can’t afford to subsidize the ever-more expensive clean up efforts after a storm that will be coming.

Let’s put our brightest minds together and gather our arguments against catastrophic flood rates caused by our status as the leading candidate to be affected by sea level rise in the entire continental United States.

And while we’re at it, let’s lead the way in adaptive strategies for sea level rise.

We can do this. We have to do this. Our grandchildren are depending on us.

No Comments »

Leave a Reply