Julia Nesheiwat, Florida’s first sea level rise resiliency officer, left her position after only a few months on the job, but a report she left behind in late 2019 should act as a call to action for the state.
According to the 36-page annual report she prepared for Governor Ron DeSantis that was acquired by the Tampa Bay Times, Nesheiwat evaluated how Florida was dealing with sea level rise and concluded that their response was too slow and disjointed. “Florida’s coastal communities and regions do not have a lot of time to waste,” she wrote. Her main concerns are that local communities are trying to cope with sea level rise on their own and, as a result, they are duplicating fact-gathering and planning.
“Florida needs a statewide strategy,” she wrote. “Communities are overwhelmed and need one place to turn to for guidance.” One of the facts fueling her concern cited in the report is the “$26 billion of residential property in Florida at risk of chronic flooding by 2045.”
Nesheiwat said the state should serve as the repository for information and guidelines so coastal communities wouldn’t have to duplicate efforts to come up with solutions to common problems posed by sea level rise flooding. She also made it clear that the state can’t rely on cities to address the enormous challenge alone. One of the examples she provided was the $75 million Monroe County needs to raise less than 3 miles of road in Sugarloaf Key.
With sea levels predicted to rise several feet by the end of the century, Florida’s residential and commercial real estate holders can’t afford to ignore Nesheiwat’s warning and advice.