Coastal Real Estate Buyers, Owners & Agents Need to Start Paying Attention to Storm Surge Prevention Projects

A major impact of global warming is stronger storms with more powerful storm surges. Climate change-driven sea level rise will also further magnify the ability of storm surges to inundate valuable real estate.

Cities along the U.S. coast are shifting from considering the threats stronger storm surges pose to local real estate to actually proposing solutions. Real estate buyers and owners need to pay close attention to what’s appearing on the drawing boards. The surge control projects could impact their property values, businesses, tax rates and quality of life.

Real estate agents need to stay current so they’re armed with facts when buyers, sellers and owners ask for the latest information about projects in their farm areas.

In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, ground zero for sea level rise flooding, for example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently unveiled a draft plan that would spend $4.6 billion on a series of 1-to-13 foot tall sea walls and pumps to protect 2.8 million people and tens of thousands of buildings worth $311 billion from storm surges. According to a Miami Herald article, the project also calls for moveable barriers to be installed at the mouths of three waterways and the elevation of thousands of buildings.

The Corps of Engineers is holding online public hearings regarding storm surge the plan this week. The impact on some property owners could be enormous. For example, a thirteen foot wall and pump stations would certainly change the view from front-line properties. The loss of a beautiful view would impact the quality of life for the owners as well as property values.

In addition, current estimates are that local taxpayers would have to bear up to 35% of the project cost while the federal government would pick up the remainder. Depending on how the project financing is structured, property owners could face substantial tax hikes. (After Covid-19 rocked the economy and government budgets, funding is bound to be a big X-factor even for projects that receive a stamp of approval.)

According to an article on the YaleEnvironment360 website, ambitious storm surge control projects are also being considered in Charleston, SC, Galveston, TX, coastal communities in New Jersey, and in and around New York City. Real estate buyers and owners in coastal areas need to keep up on the latest developments to weigh the benefits and costs of the the proposed projects. Put another way, they need to ask if the projects will protect their property, property value and quality of life without emptying their wallets.

It’s important to note that the storm surge project in Miami-Dade isn’t intended to protect communities from the increased tidal flooding that will occur as sea levels continue to rise in the decades to come. That will take a whole other effort, if it’s possible at all. This is due to the fact that South Florida is built on porous limestone, which allows seawater to easily flow beneath structures such as seawalls. Things are, indeed, getting complicated for coast-dwellers.

Can the Florida Keys Afford a Building Boom when They’re Searching for Ways to Retreat from Sea Level Rise Flooding?

Just when a law that’s been on the books since the early 1970s intended to prevent over-development in the Florida Keys is about to prevent new building projects, a state legislator is proposing legislation that could result in a building boom.

According to a Miami Herald article, Representative Rob Rommel, R-Naples, filed an amendment that would increase the hurricane evacuation time for the Keys to 30 hours from the current 24. Under the existing law, the evacuation time limit actually works as a cap on the number of buildings that can be constructed in the Keys. The expectation was that the Keys would be totally built-out by 2023.

According to the article, the new legislation is meant to stave off potentially billions of dollars worth of legal costs if property owners frustrated that they won’t be able to develop their real estate holdings sue the state and county governments for fair compensation.

If the longer evacuation time is approved, officials in the Keys worry that it could result in a building boom that would in turn make it harder for people to evacuate the Keys ahead of a hurricane and make it much more difficult to deal with sea level rise flooding.

County officials in the Keys made headlines last fall when they said sea level rise flooding may force them to abandon roads that are under water for much of the fall king tide season. The problem is so bad that officials there plan to use $20 million in federal funds to buy out and destroy homes wrecked by Hurricane Irma that are vulnerable to sea level rise flooding.

If the Florida state government clears the way for a building boom in the Keys, buyers will have to perform due diligence to ensure the property they intend to purchase isn’t at risk of sea level rise flooding.

%d bloggers like this: