Growing Returns

Sea level rise threatens Miami’s future. Here’s how the Army Corps can help keep Florida, Florida.

Florida residents are on the frontlines of climate change, already facing sea level rise and increasing storm intensity. 

This is especially evident in Miami, due to its low-lying topography, porous limestone, dense coastal development and encroaching seas.  

To address these threats, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) produced the Miami-Dade Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management study. This multibillion-dollar proposal contains traditional, hardened infrastructure projects, including a massive seawall that would extend across Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, reaching up to 20 feet in some places.

The proposal has received significant pushback from the public and stakeholders who are concerned about negative impacts to the environment, economy and quality of life.  

As the Corps seeks to address flood vulnerability in Miami and elsewhere, here are three ways the agency can reduce risk while also preserving the natural beauty of Florida’s coastal communities.

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Hurricane season is here. We need a national plan to protect our coastal communities.

The Atlantic hurricane season is underway as many coastal areas still recover from an endless barrage of storms last year that culminated in the most active hurricane season on record. With climate change, we can expect to see more intense hurricanes, leaving many communities at risk. 

In fact, a new report indicates that as many as 32 million U.S. homes and $8.5 trillion in assets are vulnerable to hurricane damage. 

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Virginia is taking bold climate action to address flood risk across the state

Climate change poses a significant threat to Virginia’s communities, infrastructure and economy. The state has the highest rates of sea level rise on the Atlantic seaboard with more than 34,000 buildings and 534 square miles of coastal land at risk of flooding by 2060, while more intense rainfall is also increasing flood risk statewide. 

Virginia’s state leadership is moving diligently to mitigate current and future flood threats by funding and implementing risk reduction and resilience projects across the commonwealth. 

Here’s how the state is tackling its flood risk problem with thoughtful planning and long-term funding.  Read More »

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New York’s environmental bond can deliver lasting resilience and create jobs

New York State, like the rest of the country, is suffering from compounding economic and public health crises as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the state remains increasingly vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise.

A new report released this week by AECOM, the world’s premiere infrastructure firm, and Rebuild by Design, a community-focused organization advocating for resilient infrastructure, offers hope for recovery for the Empire State as it demonstrates how investments in the environment can help New York not only build lasting climate resilience but also create jobs at a time when they are desperately needed. Read More »

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4 ways to reduce disproportionate flood risk and build resilience for all communities

More Americans are at risk from flooding than ever before, and that risk is growing rapidly as climate change fuels more intense hurricanes and rainfall, and as sea level rise threatens coastal communities across the country.   

However, flood risk is not equally distributed. In this country, we have a flood risk gap that places low-income communities and communities of color at higher risk from flooding. Systemic inequities compound underlying risks and drive disproportionate impacts from climate change to these communities. This gap is visible in many coastal areas, where communities of extreme wealth and poverty exist within a few square miles, yet have unequal protections against storms, flooding and sea level rise.  Read More »

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Virginia takes one big step toward a more resilient future

Virginia is experiencing the highest rates of sea level rise on the Atlantic seaboard, posing a significant risk to 70% of its population that lives along the coast.

Last month Gov. Northam released the Virginia Coastal Master Planning Framework, a roadmap to guide development of the Commonwealth’s first Coastal Resilience Master Plan expected to be released in 2021. The plan will lay out a suite of projects to build resilience and reduce future flood risk to Virginia’s communities, economy and ecosystems. Read More »

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Florida has plans to address coastal flooding, but they lack natural solutions

Florida is home to pristine beaches, diverse and exotic wildlife, and unparalleled natural landscapes. This environment drives the state’s booming tourism industry — approximately 131 million tourists visited Florida in 2019 and the state’s beaches alone produce an estimated $50 billion in travel and tourism annually.

But flooding from sea level rise and hurricanes increasingly threatens the safety of Florida’s residents, environment and economy.

First Street Foundation estimates over 1.8 million Florida properties are at risk of flooding, with that number increasing to nearly 2.2 million by 2050. Read More »

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Flooding threatened this North Carolina town’s infrastructure, so it turned to nature to help.

Like many cities across the country, Hendersonville, North Carolina, is grappling with how to protect its residents and infrastructure from extreme weather events, which have increased fourfold nationally since 1980.

The western part of the state, where Hendersonville is located, recorded its wettest period on record between 2015-2018 [PDF]. This influx of water accelerated streambank erosion and threatened the city’s critical sewer and drainage infrastructure, which was not built to withstand the new normal of extreme rainfall. Read More »

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What you need to know about new FEMA funding for community resilience

A new Federal Emergency Management Agency-run program, Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, will provide millions of dollars to cash-strapped local and state governments and federally recognized Indian tribes for projects that build resilience to protect people and property before the next disaster.

FEMA has $500 million available for BRIC projects, with $20 million set aside for federally recognized tribes. The agency will accept applications from September 30, 2020 to January 29, 2021 and requires a current FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan for eligibility.

Here are three lessons to consider as you develop your BRIC proposal. Read More »

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How states can finance coastal resilience before the next disaster

As climate change drives more intense storms, hurricane-related costs in the United States have increased 1,100% since 1980, and the population of counties prone to hurricane damage has increased at least 22% faster than the overall U.S. population has grown.

State governments must prioritize rebuilding better and investing in climate resilience now to avoid the skyrocketing costs of future disasters. Every $1 invested to mitigate a disaster saves $6 in recovery. Read More »

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