South county lead­ers board yacht to talk cli­mate, tides

The Palm Beach Post - - IN YOUR COMMUNITY - By Lulu Ra­madan Palm Beach Post Staff Writer lra­ Twit­ter: @lu­lu­ra­madan

DEL­RAY BEACH — In a meet­ing with panache, lead­ers from Palm Beach County’s south­ern­most cities boarded a yacht Wed­nes­day to talk about a press­ing prob­lem they all share: cli­mate change.

Del­ray Beach lead­ers hosted a “king tide” aware­ness event, an op­por­tu­nity for res­i­dents to min­gle with city ex­perts about the sea­son’s high­est tides that flooded coastal ar­eas ear­lier this month, aboard The Lady At­lantic Yacht at Vet­er­ans Park.

The event drew lead­ers from Boyn­ton Beach, Boca Ra­ton, Ocean Ridge, High­land Beach, Palm Beach County and Fort Laud­erdale for a tour of the In­tra­coastal Water­way and an ed­u­ca­tion on how each city is brac­ing for the in­evitable ris­ing tides.

“It doesn’t mat­ter where you are,” said Nancy Gass­man, Fort Laud­erdale’s sus­tain­abil­ity ex­pert. “Cli­mate change will find a way to af­fect you.”

Dur­ing king tides, an an­nual flood­ing event ex­ac­er­bated by the full moon in early Oc­to­ber, Fort Laud­erdale braced for 7 inches of flood­ing. They in­stead saw 21 inches, Gass­man said.

“By 2045, we ex­pect to see this ‘nui­sance flood­ing’ 240 times a year, as­sum­ing we don’t change any­thing about the to­pog­ra­phy of our area,” Gass­man said.

Dur­ing tidal flood­ing early this month, Del­ray Beach’s coastal ar­eas saw inches of wa­ter cas­cade over bar­ri­ers and over­flow from storm drains into the streets.

“The tide has got­ten so high,” said Jeff Nee­dle, who re­cently joined Del­ray Beach as a stormwa­ter en­gi­neer, “they are for­ward-pump­ing wa­ter (from in­land canals) in Mi­ami-Dade and Broward coun­ties.”

Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing on the yacht al­lowed city lead­ers to see the types of sea walls in dif­fer­ent ar­eas so they could of­fer ideas to lo­cal gov­ern­ments and pri­vate landown­ers, said Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, who heads the Del­ray Beach’s sus­tain­abil­ity of­fice.

Diana Mitsova, an ur­ban and re­gional plan­ning pro­fes­sor at Florida At­lantic Univer­sity who has stud­ied ris­ing tides for more than a decade, pointed to “liv­ing shore­lines,” or sea walls com­prised of man­groves, sand and other or­ganic ma­te­rial, as an op­tion.

Not only are liv­ing shore­lines more at­trac­tive than con­crete sea walls, she said, but they have been found to fil­ter pol­lu­tion and ben­e­fit the coastal ecosys­tem.

Palm Beach County’s coastal bar­ri­ers are at least 80 per­cent con­crete, said Eric An­der­son, of the county’s en­vi­ron­men­tal re­source de­part­ment.

Some of those sea walls have been sub­merged in ris­ing wa­ters over the years.

Along Ma­rine Way in Del­ray Beach, one of the city’s most flood­prone neigh­bor­hoods along the In­tra­coastal, no sea wall is vis­i­ble from the street. That’s be­cause it was built decades ago, and now is com­pletely un­der wa­ter, Nee­dle said.

Lo­cal cities are trend­ing to­ward im­ple­ment­ing sus­tain­able or green prac­tices in fu­ture devel­op­ment. Del­ray Beach has had a sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer since 2012.

Boyn­ton Beach hired a sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer just two months ago.

“The point is to just cre­ate an aware­ness of what we’re fac­ing,” Boyn­ton Beach Mayor Steven Grant said.

Boca Ra­ton very re­cently added a sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer po­si­tion, which hasn’t yet been filled.

Mon­ica May­otte is the for­mer chair of Boca’s Green Liv­ing Ad­vi­sory Board, which pushed for the sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer role. She live-streamed inches of flood­ing in the city’s bar­rier is­land dur­ing re­cent king tides.

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