City Hall Looks To Evaluate Jacksonville’s Susceptibility To Sea Level Rise

Jul 24, 2019

Jacksonville is getting ready to conduct a resiliency analysis, looking at the city’s critical infrastructure and areas that may be susceptible to increasing levels of precipitation as well as rising sea levels and its related risks.

The goals of the resiliency analysis are:

  • To produce a climate resiliency report.
  • Propose changes to the City’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
  • Propose updates to City policies for development.
  • Develop a list of potential projects for infrastructure protection.

Related: DEP Pledges $1.6M To Help Jax, Other Coastal Communities Prepare For Sea Level Rise

A $75,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will be used to help fund the study, which will identify up to 50 critical pieces of infrastructure and/or natural resources that will be evaluated for impacts under future sea level rise (SLR) scenarios, and hire a consultant.

“In Mayor Curry's proposed budget, there is a CIP [Capital Improvement Program] allocation of funding to support a consultant to bring on board,” said Public Works Director John Pappas. “We will be selecting a consultant as soon as the funding gets in place.”

Related: Jacksonville Mayor Curry Proposes $1.3B Budget

That consultant will be responsible for evaluating current environmental conditions and determining anticipated changes. The consultant will consolidate available information related to those environmental changes and how the changes are expected to impact Jacksonville and then determine a standard on which to base future improvements. 

The consultant will also be tasked with evaluating what infrastructure is critical to the city and determining weak points based on the changing environmental conditions. 

Ultimately, the consultant will be expected to evaluate those weak points, identify potential future improvements and then create a plan to support those improvements. Pappas said Public Works will be managing the resiliency analysis with support from the consultant.

In its draft DEP grant application, the City describes the need for and potential benefits of this project:

“Recent storms like Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew, and Irma have highlighted the City’s vulnerability to storm events.  Additionally, more frequent and severe localized storm events have impacted coastal and low-lying areas throughout the city.  A proactive approach to identifying and protecting critical infrastructure and sensitive natural resources is needed to address these events and better serve the City’s residents. 

It is the City’s desire to meet the goals of the FDEP Florida Resilient Coastlines Program (FRCP) Priority Area 1 by identifying future threats, educating the public and key stakeholders about these threats, assessing vulnerability of key City resources, proactively planning to address them, and ultimately developing amendments to the City’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan to better protect both the people of Jacksonville and the infrastructure that serves them.

The proposed project will provide the scientific basis for policies and projects that will address the anticipated impacts of SLR and more frequent and severe precipitation using a collaborative and transparent process.”

“The funding Mayor Curry has put in place for this study is the first step, and it’s a big step, because it will get us going and help us do it the right way, identifying what needs to be addressed,” Pappas said. “The risk is there, whether we identify it or not. And I think Mayor Curry has made it clear he wants to focus on finding what those risks are and trying to address them.”

Pappas thinks the climate resiliency report will be wrapped up by mid 2020.

Members of the City’s Storm Resiliency and Infrastructure Development Review Committee (SRAIDRC) and participating agencies have agreed to continue coordinating with the City on this analysis and other resiliency efforts moving forward.

Related: How To Make Jacksonville More ‘Resilient’: 2 Committees’ Suggestions

The kinds of adaptation strategies the City could consider include physically raising key infrastructure, relocating vulnerable populations, redeveloping, preserving or conserving buffer areas or natural resources that offer protection from storm surge and SLR as well as gray (armoring, tide gates, pump stations, bulk heads, sea walls, etc.) and green (living shorelines, wetland restoration, etc.) infrastructure improvements.

The City plans to hold several public meetings to develop and vet any proposed changes that come out of this process. These public meetings could include briefings to the City council, presentations at Community Planning Advisory Committee meetings and town halls.

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