Jacksonville Sea Level Rise Task Force Votes To Expand Area Of Focus

May 31, 2019

Jacksonville’s sea level rise work group voted unanimously Friday to expand its boundaries to include areas that have been impacted by flooding in recent hurricanes.

The City’s Adaptation Action Area Working Group was originally tasked with considering policies to address sea level rise in the Coastal High Hazard Area (CHHA), which is essentially the area that falls below the storm surge line in a category 1 hurricane.

But Chair Emily Pierce says that’s not an accurate representation of what’s vulnerable in Jacksonville.

“Because we’re supposed to be looking at areas that are vulnerable to sea level rise and the most recent experience with Hurricane Irma shows that the Coastal High Hazard Area is not a broad enough definition,” she said.

Related: Jacksonville Sea Level Rise Task Force Looks To Expand Focus Beyond Coastal Hazard Areas

Jacksonville flood zones in downtown, Riverside and San Marco.
Credit City of Jacksonville

Similar concerns were expressed in previous meetings, so Friday she and other members voted to ask the city to consider redefining the boundary of the Adaptation Action Area to be the 500-year floodplain (the area FEMA says would be flooded in a 500 year storm) or the area the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects to be inundated in a category 3 hurricane, whichever is greater, with one caveat: implementation of adaptation strategies will be commensurate with the level of risk.  Put another way, a riverfront property that history has shown is more likely to flood may have to meet a stricter set of criteria than a property that is two blocks inland.

Jacksonville storm surge zones in downtown, Riverside and San Marco.
Credit City of Jacksonville

That area does not include sea level rise projections. However, members also voted Friday to ask the city to update the Adaptation Action Area with sea level rise and infrastructure vulnerability assessments every five years so that decisions regarding adaptation planning and investments can be based on the most up to date information.

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