Infrastructure Can Divide or Connect
This is a repost from the article published in the Summer issue of Downtown News by Aaron DeMayo.
Storms are becoming more frequent and powerful, with increased rain and wind leading to expensive and deadly damage. There were fourteen disasters in 2018, costing over a billion dollars in the U.S. A report by the Union of Concerned Citizens of the ‘communities with the highest potential flooding-related real estate losses’ by 2045 list Miami Beach at #1 with $6,443,424,737, and Miami at #7 with $2,115,800,018.
New infrastructure to protect our home is necessary
The Army Corps of Engineers has been working on the Miami-Dade Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study since October 2018. On June 5th, the USACE released an extensive draft report that outlines many areas, including a background of the study, hydro modeling analysis, economic impacts, environmental consequences, and finally, conclusions and recommendations.
The recommendations prioritize walls and storm surge barriers at the mouth of the Miami River, Little River, and Biscayne Canal. The tentatively selected plan includes walls with heights approximately 20 feet high from a ground surface elevation that would extend approximately 50 feet out into the Bay to protect Brickell, with walls along Biscayne Boulevard to protect Downtown. The floodwalls would significantly impact the visual character of the area, and obstruct views of Biscayne Bay, while also resulting in major adverse environmental impacts to natural resources, aesthetics, and recreation. The project is estimated to cost $4.6 Billion, with annual net benefits of $1.64 Billion. The plan looks to address storm surge but not flooding from extreme rain events or due to rising seas.
A little Downtown infrastructure history
Our city has had numerous large infrastructure projects, and will likely have many more. Major highway expansion in Miami began with a resolution in 1956. The thriving “Colored Town,” later known as Overtown, would plummet from 50,000 residents to less than 10,000 due to the construction of the highway cutting through them, along with other concerted efforts. Now, we are renovating that same portion of the 836-Dolphin to I-95 to I-395. The goal is to alleviate traffic congestion, increase safety, and also to restitch the neighborhoods. The Signature Bridge will span 1,025’ over NE 2nd Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard, and a landscaped trail beneath and around the new construction will connect Overtown, Downtown Miami, Omni, and Edgewater. This shows how two transportation projects, in the same location, has the ability to divide, or to connect. Now, we are reviewing proposals for walls not to keep people from each other, but holding back mother nature.
An adequate approach
Protecting our home from Climate Change allows for the opportunity to create infrastructure and public spaces that influence the interaction between our neighbors and the beautiful Waterworld that surrounds us. For decades our community has been working to allow more opportunities for us to connect with nature and make significant progress on the Riverwalk and Baywalk. We can even go a step further and renew the ecosystems that once stood on the land we now call home, which evolved over millennia as a natural defense. This green infrastructure would restore flora and fauna, which make our community unique.
For our city to prosper, I believe we must responsibly consider how our land use, built environment, zoning, and infrastructure decisions can build community equitably, embrace mother nature, and protect us all.
The USACE Back Bay Study
Extensive documentation of the Back Bay Study can be found at the link below. The public comment period extends through July 20th. https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/MiamiDadeBackBayCSRMFeasibilityStudy/