Challenges Facing Southeast Florida — Ground Zero for Sea Level Rise Flooding — Described in Exhaustive BBC Report

With its low elevation and proximity to lots of water on all sides and underfoot, Southeast Florida is clearly ground zero for sea level rise flooding. The BBC recently published an exhaustive report on the current status of sea level rise in the region — that includes the Florida Keys all the way north through Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach — and the challenges of controlling the inundation. The report makes fascinating required reading for anyone investing in residential and commercial real estate in coastal areas that are threatened by surging tides.

The BBC report, written by Amanda Ruggeri, is full of fascinating facts about sea level rise. Among them:

  1. Current predictions are that sea level could rise by up to 10 inches in the region by 2030 and 5 feet by 2100.
  2. Each additional inch of sea level rise can have a substantial affect on coastal real estate.
  3. The region has more people at risk from sea level rise than any other state, and Miami, specifically, has more financial assets at risk than any other major coastal city in the world.
  4. Cities in the region are already making changes to infrastructure to address sea level rise flooding, including raising roads and seawalls and installing hundreds of tidal valves and pump stations.
  5. Despite the efforts to hold back the sea, experts recognize that they will not be able to save every property and neighborhood from flooding.
  6. Every community faces different challenges. Governments, homeowners, business owners, taxpayers, insurers, developers, engineers and planners are going to have to work together to decide how to address sea level rise in their communities.
  7. Each community is an intricate puzzle where making a change to one piece of infrastructure, such as raising a segment of seawall or roadway, can lead to the unintended flooding of neighboring properties.
  8. Reaching consensus can lead to clashes over proposed solutions, costs, potential impacts and private property rights.
  9. Among the encouraging signs is that in the absence of federal and state leadership, county and local governments are forming regional partnerships to address sea level rise in a coordinated fashion.
  10. Among the discouraging signs is that finding funding sources for the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects needed to hold back the rising tides is difficult.

While the BBC report provides a broad, holistic view of how Southeast Florida is tackling sea level rise flooding, real estate buyers, owners and agents still need to invest time and effort evaluating how rising tides are impacting their properties and communities before making decisions. Sea level rise is already resulting in increased property maintenance costs, taxes, insurance and association fees in some areas. It’s also hurting the rate of property value appreciation and forcing extreme measures, such as road abandonment and property buy-outs.

As the polar ice caps continue to melt and the oceans expand due to global warming, these sea level rise is going to challenge more and more coastal residents.

Real Estate Buyers Need to Be Aware of Sea Level Rise’s Impact on Infrastructure

Buyers of real estate in coastal areas don’t just need to know if the property of interest experiences sea level rise flooding. They also need to know how salty floodwaters are impacting critical infrastructure.

Case in point: Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For decades, officials there have raided the city’s sewer and water budget to fund other projects. Without critical maintenance, the system is collapsing. Last month alone, breaks in a pipe caused 126 million gallons of sewage to course down a neighborhood street and into a river.

In 2017, an engineering firm gave the city an 800 page report that said $1.4 billion worth of work that needed to be completed on the leaky wastewater treatment system to stop the sewage spills. Experts said part of the problem is that the system has aged beyond its useful life. Another problem is that sea level rise is immersing metal pipes in salty water which is causing them to corrode and fail.

Fort Lauderdale isn’t alone in confronting this costly challenge. Miami, too, has a failing wastewater treatment system that has led to spills and huge fines. Many other cities all along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coastlines are bound to get hit with similar problems as their infrastructure is invaded by rising seas.

One thing Fort Lauderdale and Miami have in common is the struggle to find money to make the needed repairs. The only options are higher taxes or bond issues. Either way, property owners are bound to get soaked.

The timing of these costs couldn’t be worse. In addition to the need to upgrade their wastewater treatment systems, both cities need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to raise roads and pipes and build barriers and pumps to hold back the ocean.

In the end, buyers need to take future tax hikes into account when they’re considering whether or not to purchase real estate in areas impacted by sea level rise flooding. This issue is discussed in detail in “7 sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions.”

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