BBWK submitted our comments today on the EPA and Miami-Dade County’s Consent Decree outlining the $1.6 billion dollar plan to start repairing our sewage infrastructure. The EPA and Miami-Dade decided to move forward with a zero sea level rise consent decree spending billions in tax payer dollars despite BBWK’s repeated attempts to get them to consider the impacts of sea level rise. Now, it is time for all stakeholders, near and far, to call for a safe and secure future and demand climate resilient infrastructure in Miami-Dade county. We saw the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and before then, Hurricane Andrew’s storm surge shut down the Central District Wastewater plant on Virginia Key for 30 days. This is the time to make smart, thoughtful decisions to plan for the future. Now, since local and federal leaders have turned their back, it will be up to a judge to decide how to proceed. This is the time to use your voice, be heard and Tell EPA & Miami-Dade we need climate-ready infrastructure. BBWK’s comments do not just point fingers at problems, but offer suggestions and solutions to best management and implementation. BBWK has funded multiple expert reports and given them to the decision makers. Today, BBWK submitted these reports as part of 28 exhibits that accompanied our comments. Our comment letter can be found here. Let’s invest in prevention and not waste billions more in future repairs or preventable catastrophe clean ups; let’s spend our money wisely; let’s prepare for continued growth; let’s have a long-term vision of our future. Thank you to all the groups, municipalities and individuals who have submitted comments so far.
Remember the period for comments ends August 11, so there is still time to get your voice heard. (See our last post for instructions on how to comment.)
Miami-Dade County and the EPA have lodged a draft consent decree in federal court that rebuilds significant (and long neglected) aspects of Miami-Dade’s water and sewer system without accounting for the impacts to the system resulting from sea level rise, erosion and storm surge. The EPA, the Obama Administration and Miami-Dade County have made strong commitments for climate change adaptation and resiliency in critical infrastructure. Yet, those commitments have not been applied to this $1.6 billion consent decree. The ongoing viability of Miami-Dade County depends on resilient critical infrastructure that will withstand foreseeable storm incidents, rising seas and population growth. The strength of federal policies on climate adaptation will be determined by their application to the situations like the sewer system rebuild in Miami-Dade County.
The consent decree process includes a public comment period. This is where we need your help.Please submit comments individually to ask for a better consent decree and send us a copy of what you send. (Instructions below with a link to comment template; DUE AUGUST 11). The final approval of the consent decree, or a decision to send it back to the parties to be amended, will come from federal Judge Moreno. Judge Moreno will have the opportunity to review comments and the responses to those comments in making his decision on the consent decree. You can make a big difference in the final outcome of this situation.
The changes to the consent decree Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper has recommended and included in the comment template (see below) will protect the Biscayne watershed water quality and ensure that critical infrastructure in Miami-Dade County is built for the 21st Century.
Please see the template of comments that you can submit individually here: Link to Comment Template. Feel free to personalize or adjust the attached comments as you see fit. Copy and paste the Comment template into the body of your e-mail. The highlighted sections of the attached comments should be changed to reflect your name. The comment period closes on Monday, August 11, 2013. If you submit comments, *let us know when you do*.
Please send Comment in email form by AUGUST 11 to: email@example.comSubject line: United States of America, State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and State of Florida v. Miami-Dade County, Florida; Civil Action No. 1:12-cv-24400-FAM (DOJ Ref: No. 90-5-1-1-4022/1).
Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper has been mentioned in two recent articles on sea-level rise in Rolling Stone magazine and the Wall Street Journal. We are thrilled that the issue of sea-level rise is getting increased attention in these national publications, and that BBWK’s involvement in confronting these issues was recognized.
Sea level rise is a reality that our coastal cities must confront through progressive infrastructure, planning, and reform, as the expert report by Berry and Alvarez shows (view report here). National and local policies have recognized this reality. Unfortunately, these policies are not being included in various planning processes here in Miami in major projects ranging from redevelopment of the Miami Beach Convention Center to rebuilding Miami-Dade County’s Sewage Infrastructure. All of these projects are large-scale with billion dollar, tax payer-funded, price tags.
No city is more vulnerable, or has as much to lose, than the great city of Miami. The Rolling Stone article is a bleak depiction of the situation for Miami. The article describes Miami’s unique circumstance, that is, most of the city is at sea level, and offers it as a poster child for the vulnerability of coastal cities around the world to the impacts of rising seas and storm surge. Since Miami will be the first major coastal city to see significant long-term impacts from sea level rise (and arguably already is), it makes sense for the global community to look to Miami for guidance when preparing for sea level rise themselves. Depending on our actions today, Miami will serve the global community as either a progressive leader or an example of disaster resulting from negligence. Continue reading →
As part of Swim. Drink. Fish. Music, Gummdrops productions, a partner of Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, presents the latest from Jacob Jefferies. Enjoy this music and reflect on the importance of clean water in Biscayne Bay.
Since BBWK started gathering expert reports and meeting with government agencies in October, things have been moving at a rapid pace. These past couple weeks have moved even faster. On Monday May 13, we sent a letter from 16 organizations asking that EPA and Miami-Dade take a holistic approach to address these sewage issues (Read the letter here: Letter to Mayor Gimenez and Ms. Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming copy). On Tuesday, May 14th, we won our hearing and were granted intervenor status in the DOJ’s enforcement case. This gave both County and DOJ/EPA further incentive to get the settlement agreement (Consent Decree) passed in the County Commission. They passed the Consent Decree despite all of the information we provided showing the consent decree is contrary to the County’s and EPA’s own stated initiatives goals about infrastructure resilience, especially post super-storm Sandy. BBWK tried to speak at the BOCC (Board of County Commissioners) hearing but our request was denied. BBWK urged the County Commission to follow a “stitch in time saves 9″ approach and get the Consent Decree in much better form before approving it. Read the Miami Herald article about the county commissioners’ approval of the Consent Decree here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/21/3407080/miami-dade-commissioners-to-take.html
As always BBWK supports much needed attention to our sewage infrastructure that has been delayed far too long. We must implement the funding needed to begin to fix the problems that require immediate attention. Our suggestion is for a bifurcated Consent Decree – first part dealing with immediate fixes to a decrepit system, the second addressing broader, more holistic issues of resiliency and best possible planning. The last Consent Decree in 1994/95 was also in two phases.
Meanwhile, two sewage spills occurred this week. (Here is a list of sewage spills since June 2012) This is not a new issue – this is something Miami-Dade should have been dealing with for over a decade. We cannot keep growing our city without growing and improving our infrastructure as well.
Huffington Post released an article today that looks at the impact of sewage overflow from Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey. The article points out how storm surge will result in overflow events and how rising sea levels will only exacerbate these events resulting in more severe discharges.
The 11 billion gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage spilled due to storm surge in New York and New Jersey must be seen as a warning for all coastal cities. We must consider this warning as we rebuild Miami-Dade’s sewage system. As sea levels rise storm surges will increase in intensity and frequency. Miami-Dade’s facilities must be built to withstand these storm surges to avoid the kind of spills seen in the northeast.
“Princeton, N.J.-based Climate Central said that future sewage leaks are a major risk because rising sea levels can make coastal flooding more severe…The collective overflows – almost all in New York and New Jersey and due to storm surges – would be enough to cover New York City’s Central Park with a pile of sewage 41 feet high, Climate Central said.”
On April 9, 2013 Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, along with 131 other organizations, undersigned a letter to the United States Senate urging them to opposeadvancing the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601). This letter, put together by the Water Protection Network, points out significant problems in this bill:
“Particularly troubling are the streamlining provisions (Sections 2033 and 2032) which will force agency staff to make uninformed decisions, to rubber stamp unacceptable projects, and prioritize deadline compliance over effective review. They do this by:
Requiring the Corps of Engineers to carry out the shortest review possible; Establishing arbitrary and unreasonably short deadlines for the public and resource agencies to comment;
Establishing arbitrary deadlines for resource agency decisions and recommendations;
Allowing the Corps to elevate multiple technical and substantive disagreements all the way to the President; and
Directing the Corps to impose multiple and ongoing fines on resource agencies that miss deadlines or disagree with the Corps on issues fully within the expertise of the resource agencies.
These provisions also could give the Corps control over reviews that are clearly outside of its jurisdiction, including consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, review under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and reviews under laws governing activities in coastal areas and public lands.
Additionally, the bill threatens to exacerbate our nation’s fiscal deficits by rolling back long- established cost-sharing rules and expanding federal responsibilities into areas that have been the financial responsibility of non-federal project sponsors. If enacted as reported, the bill will result in overspending, overcapacity, and substantial and unnecessary damage to the nation’s major estuaries and harbors. Title VIII of the bill would immediately more than double spending on harbor maintenance without assurance of the cost-effectiveness or true need for the dredging. In addition, the Title eliminates the current 50 percent non-federal cost share for maintaining deep draft harbors from 45 to 50 feet of depth, making these costs 100 percent federal responsibility. The provision also makes dredging and maintenance of all approach channels to berths along federal navigation channels and all upland confined disposal of contaminated dredged sediments a 100 percent federal responsibility, rather than the current 100 percent non-federal responsibility. No one has ever even estimated the costs of such an expansion. This would likely cause increases in dredging of contaminated areas that otherwise never would have been contemplated, increasing toxic releases into the nation’s bays and estuaries. We strongly urge rejection of this title as representing a major setback for the nation’s water policy that will be both environmentally-damaging and represents an improper shift of spending and water project responsibility to the taxpayers.”