Jacksonville City Council President Scott Wilson has announced the formation of a committee that will look to make the city more resilient to flooding, sea level rise, and severe weather.
“Population growth and natural forces stress our infrastructure and threaten our coastal and river areas more than ever before,” said Council President Wilson. “To address these challenges, I am appointing a special council committee to determine how we can increase the city’s resilience in the aftermath of a natural disaster.”
“The committee will also assess the health of coastal areas, the St. Johns River, its tributaries, wetlands, and riparian land,” he said.
Wilson has named Councilman Matt Carlucci as the new committee’s chair.
“I am very pleased that our council president is taking the leadership to put this special committee together,” Carlucci said. “This is a very forward thinking move.”
Carlucci pointed to Hogans Creek overflowing on Monday afternoon as an example of the pressing need for action.
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“If we had some resiliency policies that were in place, for that particular area, that water could be directed somewhere else besides the road,” he said. “When we have these hurricanes, tropical storms, or even just really bad northeasters - what I call frog stranglers - you get water that oftentimes floods into people's homes. So we need to discuss and find ways to help mitigate that type of damage, and also help us to bounce back better and quicker from storms, because the quicker we recover, the quicker we get back to our normal way of life.”
Carlucci said he’s passionate about this issue due to his background in the insurance industry. Between Hurricanes Matthew and Irma and tropical storm Fay, Carlucci handled close to 700 insurance claims, many of them flood claims.
“I know quite a bit about resiliency, as far as the effects, because I'm in the insurance business. But I'm gonna be relying heavily on experts, and I know the rest of the committee will too, for the solutions that we need,” he said.
The committee will review city environmental, land use, and infrastructure policies and then propose policy recommendations to be considered by the full City Council, Mayor Lenny Curry, and executive branch agencies.
“Some of the solutions won't be expensive, some of them may be expensive, but it won't be near as expensive as if we don't do something. If we don't do anything, that's where it will be hugely expensive,” Carlucci said.
The committee will build on the work done by the city’s Storm Resiliency and Infrastructure Development Review Committee and the Adaptation Action Area Working Group, both of which wrapped up earlier this year.
The committee will consider recommendations from the city’s planning department, and look to the work that the Northeast Florida Regional Council has done on resiliency and sea level rise.
Other than Carlucci, the proposed committee council members are Michael Boylan, Randy De Foor, Garrett Dennis, Rory Diamond, Joyce Morgan, and Council President Wilson.
The first meeting is expected to be held in January and will feature speakers who will spell out the threats facing Jacksonville. Carlucci thinks the committee will meet at least once a month, but twice a month is possible once the JEA committee wraps up its work.