Writer: Esteban Pages
3 min read August 2023 — City of Fort Lauderdale officials recently signed nearly $100 million in bonds to finance improvements to the city’s stormwater system, a response to the historic flash flood the city saw earlier this year. In April, the city experienced more than a third of its expected annual rainfall within a 12-hour period — resulting in millions of dollars in damages.
Similar to most South Florida cities, Fort Lauderdale streets are designed to withstand three inches of rain in a day, as cited by the Miami Herald.
The city is intent on placing sustainability and environmental concerns front and center as projects are carried out to mitigate flooding and sea level rise. Invest: sat down with Michael Kroll, president and principal at Miller Legg and Phil Purcell, CEO of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, to gain their perspectives on the efforts underway to make Fort Lauderdale’s infrastructure more resilient.
How is Fort Lauderdale addressing climate concerns such as rising sea levels?
Phil Purcell: Fort Lauderdale has a huge campaign in terms of replacing and fixing pipes. They’re learning from it and hopefully, they’re building more resiliency long term. It’s also important to build the infrastructure for trains and other things, so people have an option. Seawalls are a big item as well. When we talk about bridges, we talk about vehicular bridges. Eventually, those are going to have to be raised and changed based on age alone. You’ll build new configurations of those, but you won’t build them at the same height because of sea level rise. Our elected officials are doing a good job addressing it, trying to look past today and look toward 40 or 50 years out. All of us should be at the table in terms of realistic solutions because the real problem is twofold. Who’s going to pay for it? Everyone wants a solution, but they don’t want to pay for it. The federal government needs to look at programs for areas like Broward County and fund some of the infrastructure challenges. Keep in mind we are the third largest state and sixth largest metropolitan area in the country. Let’s act like it, and drive results that benefit our communities.
Michael Kroll: Being at ground zero of sea level rises here, our storm elevations are constantly being reviewed by county, state and federal agencies to ensure the design criteria for new facilities not only meet current flood elevations but also anticipate future elevations. We have had projects where construction drawings were nearly complete and the city told us we had to raise our finished floor a foot and a half. The site was right on the road surrounded by other developments, but because the city had decided to raise the road elevation to respond to sea level rise, we had to raise that finished floor. It presented a unique challenge because it brought new questions like how we would maintain ADA accessibility and how transitions from the road would be impacted. It illustrates what developers must understand about the area. Developers need to be flexible and understand the requirements and potential changes that can come up in the development process.
What is the importance of staying on top of water and sewer infrastructure?
Kroll: We do a lot of work with local governments whose infrastructure is aging, unable to meet the demands of the community and is in need of facility upgrades. These infrastructure improvements achieve a couple of things. One, it makes sure the facilities can meet current demands as well as future redevelopment plans. Two, it is important to mitigate environmental issues like older pipes and pump stations that can leak and contaminate groundwater, drinking water and precious natural resources like Biscayne Bay. These are critical in our eyes and fortunately some of these municipalities are being proactive, while others are reacting to arising issues. This is an issue that also affects our education and healthcare institutional clients which are making investments to make sure the on-campus infrastructure is there to improve facilities and safety.
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