Atlantic Beach Takes Steps To Begin Addressing Sea Level Rise

Jan 30, 2019

At Monday’s meeting, the Atlantic Beach City Commission took steps to acknowledge the threat of sea level rise and to begin exploring coastal resiliency strategies.

“The sea level along the coast of Florida has risen about six inches in 30 years with scientific projections forecasting another eight inches of sea level rise in the next 20 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” Mayor Ellen Glasser told the Atlantic Beach City Commission Monday, reading from Resolution No. 19-02 which was filed on her behalf. “NOAA reports that Florida’s sea level rise of three inches since 2000 has increased flooding in the state by 300 percent. NOAA reports that nearby Naval Station Mayport has experienced sea level rise at one-third inch per year, a pace that has accelerated since the 1990s.”

“Rising sea levels amplify the threat and magnitude of storm surge in coastal areas, meaning the impact and power of hurricanes will only increase, endangering even more coastal property and infrastructure,” she continued. “Sea level rise and flooding causes damage to coastal homes, disrupts transportation, adversely impacts small businesses and commercial interests and imposes additional costs on our cities through infrastructure and drainage system upgrades.”

While the resolution serves to acknowledge the significance of sea level rise and flooding, as well as the need for the research and funding of resiliency efforts, Glasser admitted it’s just a first step.

“This is going to be symbolic,” she said. “It's something we can talk about in our efforts to play a leadership role with the environment in our community.”

The resolution passed with unanimous support.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the City Commission unanimously authorized Mayor Glasser to sign Agreement R1821, a grant agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP selected the City of Atlantic Beach to take part in the Florida Resilient Coastlines Program, through which the state aims to help coastal communities deal with the effects of flooding, erosion and habitat shifts. The $40,000 grant awarded to Atlantic Beach through the program will allow the city to hire a consultant to analyze threats posed by sea level rise and to propose possible resiliency measures.

According to Deputy City Manager Kevin Hogencamp, the city will get that consultant’s report by June.

“Just to give you some idea of what they’ll be looking at: our utilities, our public facilities, our open space, our transportation system, and our residents’ vulnerability to sea level rise,” he said.

During its 2019 priority-setting session earlier this month, the commission agreed that coastal resiliency would be a priority over the coming year.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.