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Sea level rise continues to pose threat to low-lying communities

New City Council Resiliency Special Committee discusses flooding concerns in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Last year, 25 states experienced record flooding, including Florida.

Northeast Florida is no stranger to hurricanes and strong storms, and Tony Pooley, the sustainability and resiliency development manager for Terracon, said that with sea levels rising, the flooding after these storms will continue to get worse.

“We can see through tidal gauge data in Mayport that we’ve had about 10 inches of increased sea level rise since 1930. That’s about 1 inch per decade,” Pooley said.

Saltwater intrusion aids in the deterioration of natural systems such as wetlands and marshes. This happens when saline water moves into freshwater aquifers, increasing the stress on coastal aquifers and ecosystems that depend upon freshwater.

“That’s going to happen in areas where, No. 1, we have deteriorated natural systems, from wetlands or our marshes that have deteriorated because we’ve lost some over time through saltwater intrusion," Pooley said.

Jacksonville is ruled by shorelines, which increases the threat of flooding with sea level rise, especially when a large storm moves through.

Some communities have already taken the next step with resiliency plans to help build up the community.

“There is a very proactive approach the city of Atlantic Beach and Mayor (Ellen) Glasser and (the) city commission has undertaken," Pooley said. “They’re doing and have done a vulnerability assessment to see what the vulnerability will be for 25 years, for 50 years and 100 years.”

As a result of this growing issue, Jacksonville formed a new Special Committee on Resiliency that had its first meeting Monday afternoon. The meeting focused on setting the scene of climate change and sea levels rising in and around Jacksonville. The issues that were mentioned involved rising sea levels, which can trigger a whole new list of problems such as water pollution caused by septic tanks during floods.

“A catastrophic Category 3 hurricane used to be considered almost unbelievable. Well, now, Category 5 hurricanes are somewhat becoming more and more normal,” said City Councilman Matt Carlucci, who is a member of the Special Committee on Resiliency. "So we have to think about the new normal.”

This year, the city of Jacksonville will do a resiliency analysis that will highlight trouble spots so the city can take the necessary steps in protecting the community from rising seas and flooding.


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