Flooding in Miami-Dade due to seasonal high tides.

IMG_0107Today Miami-Dade County circulated a news release about localized flooding that is expected to occur due to exceptionally high tides this fall. We saw flooding on October 16 due to seasonal high tides, and we may see more flooding this fall. These events show us some of the problems that our infrastructure faces as sea level rise looms on our horizon. How can we develop strategies to defend ourselves and our environment from flooding? Below is an excerpt from the County’s news release. Read a pdf of the release here:Miami-DadeTidePressRelease

“Typically, higher-than-average tides tend to occur in our region during the months of September, October and November and can be more extreme due to the factors mentioned above. Because the region’s storm water systems depend on gravity to drain excess water to the ocean, these high tides can flow back up into drainage systems along the coast and canals, flooding streets and adjacent areas. This occurred during a similar higher-than-average tide event on October 18th (See Photo Above). Therefore, residents are advised to use caution when traveling on any streets with standing water.

These annual extreme tide events illustrate the potential challenges of future sea level rise to low-lying coastal communities in South Florida and underscore the importance of developing appropriate strategies to address and reduce coastal flooding impacts. ”

What is Happening to Florida’s Freshwater?

Miami River used to be crystal clear with flowing rapids, supplying Biscayne Bay with a stead freshwater  flow.

Miami River used to be crystal clear with flowing rapids, supplying Biscayne Bay with a stead freshwater flow.

Fresh water used to flow into Biscayne Bay. The Miami river, also known as Sweetwater river, was once a flowing river that fed the Bay’s ecosystem with freshwater creating a brackish ecosystem. Today these ecosystems are exasperated from an almost complete absence of freshwater flow. The situation with the Miami river is not unique in Florida. Our state’s freshwater supply is in dire straights from rampant overuse.

What happened to the freshwater that used to flow through the Miami river, that used to flood the Everglades and that used to bubble up in springs throughout Florida? According to Craig Pittman of Tampa Bay Times our water has been over pumped for many reasons:

“Where did it go? The evidence points to too much pumping of fresh water — millions of gallons a day sprayed on suburban lawns and farmers’ fields, run through showers and flushed down toilets, turned into steam to crank turbines for electricity, or siphoned into plastic bottles for sale around the country.

Floridians use 158 gallons of water a day per person, about 50 more than the national average. Meanwhile agriculture draws more water out of the ground for irrigation than any state east of the Mississippi. As a result, between 1970 and 1995, withdrawals from the aquifer increased more than 50 percent and by 2005 hit 4.2 billion gallons a day.” (read the whole article here.)

What does this mean for us? Depleting our water supply is detrimental to critical ecosystems which rely on freshwater flows to stay healthy. Also, depleting our water supplies will be disastrous when we start coming up short on drinking water for our communities.

How do we stop this horrible trend? We need to change the way we think about our precious resource. Perhaps because we are surrounded by water Floridians think of our freshwater as an inexhaustible resource, but we are beginning to see that we can use up all of our water, and at the rate we are going we will run out of water.

Once we start thinking of water as precious we might be more conservative with our own consumption. We might ask policy makers to ensure our sewage treatment systems become more efficient and recycle our water instead of sending it out to sea through outflow systems. We should ask that Florida’s agriculture become more efficient with their freshwater uses. And we should ask that our government take the lead in making sure that Florida does not exhaust our aquifers through over pumping so we will continue to have wonderful clean water for generations to come.



How Is FEMA Addressing Sea-level Rise?

ThunderheadOn October 15 Huffington Post released an article titled “Congress Passed A Climate Change Law…And Then Nothing Happened”. This article highlights the real threats that sea-level rise pose to Americans, threats which have been acknowledged by congress, that are not seeing the action required to address these threats. Miami is the city that stands to lose the most to sea level rise and, therefore, should stand as the loudest proponent for policy changes that will help protect property owners and residents from these threats. This article highlights the changes that need to be made to the National Flood Insurance Program in order to keep abreast of the impacts our changing climate is having on the way we think about flood insurance. This is a critical issue, especially for Miami, that we must keep at the forefront of our policy decisions in the future. Below are some excerpts: Click here to read the article at Huff Post.

“I wouldn’t be too surprised if within the next five years we could credibly start to incorporate climate change into aspects of the modeling,” said David F. Smith, the vice president of the model development group at Eqecat, a risk-modeling firm.

Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, said he wasn’t surprised FEMA had been slow in setting up the council.

“It’s the rule, rather than the exception, that federal agencies miss the rule-making deadlines” set out in laws, he said. “Often they have to be sued to get back on schedule.”

Happy Columbus Day!

ColumbusdayMiami!May this Columbus Day be a good one for all Biscayne Bay stewards and enthusiasts!

The Apalachicola needs our help!

Eatin an oyster with DanTwo months ago I was eating an oyster with Dan Tonsmeire, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, at the Waterkeeper Conference. Now he is putting out a call for everyone who cares about oysters and beautiful rivers. The Apalachicola river is being starved of critical freshwater flows due to water use up stream. (a similar issue threatens Biscayne Bay here in south Florida).

Here is the situation in Dan’s words:

“On August 13th, 2013, U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio held a Congressional Hearing in Apalachicola to gather testimony on the impacts of low freshwater flows to the Apalachicola Bay.

As the Apalachicola Riverkeeper, I was among those who testified to the economic and ecological devastation our River & Bay have suffered as a result of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ mismanagement of the freshwater flows in the Apalachicola River.  Today, I am asking you to join us in the fight of a lifetime to save the Apalachicola Bay. We URGENTLY need your help to convince Congress to instruct the Army Corps of Engineers to establish the freshwater flows needed to sustain the Bay’s fisheries.

Please sign Apalachicola Riverkeeper’s Petition to US Congress located on the Change.org website. Please also post the petition link on your Facebook page and to your organizational website. We need many thousands of signatures to make Congress understand they MUST ACT to save Apalachicola River and Bay NOW.”

Support our sister organization in North Florida by signing this petition. You’ll be happy when you taste one of their delicious oysters.

Thank you to all who spoke out for Clean Water

Thank you for using you voices to speak out for clean water! Together, with our comments, we sent a message, loud and clear, demanding more resilient infrastructure for Miami-Dade County that will help ensure swimmable, fishable, drinkable water for Miami.
 Thank you to all who spoke
Some of those who sent comments include:
Local Partners: The CLEO Institute, Mayor Phil Stoddard of South Miami, Surfrider Miami Beach, Katy Sorenson, Treespace Miami Group, Urban Paradise Guild, Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, Village of Key Biscayne and City of South Miami
National Partners: NRDC, California Coastkeeper Alliance, Waterkeeper Alliance, Richard Snow, Seakeepers International, board members of Mission Blue

Check Out This Blog Post On EcoWatch

Slide22Check out this blog post on EcoWatch that was written by BBWK’s Executive Director, Alexis Segal. “As Sea Levels Rise, Cities Must Build Climate Ready Infrastructure.”

Click here to visit EcoWatch to read the blog. Below are some exerts from the post.

“On Tuesday Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper (BBWK)submitted comments on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Miami-Dade County’s Consent Decree outlining the $1.6 billion dollar plan to start repairing Miami-Dade’s sewage infrastructure without accounting for the impacts to the system resulting from sea level rise, erosion and storm surge.”

“Joined by many local municipalities, advocates and national groups, BBWK lobbied hard for changes to the decree for months, providing multiple expert reports, practical solutions and specific suggestions to dramatically improve the draft consent decree before passage by the Miami-Dade County Commission.”

“Now, since local and federal leaders have turned their backs, it will be up to a federal judge to decide how to proceed. We need climate-ready infrastructure. Let us, as a nation, make the decision to invest in prevention and not waste billions more in future repairs or preventable cleanups; let us spend our money wisely; let us prepare for continued growth sustainably; let us have a long-term vision of our future.

The comment period ends August 11, so there is still time to get your voice heard. BBWK’s comment letter was accompanied by 28 exhibits. You can make a big difference in the final outcome of this situation.”


Tell EPA & Miami-Dade: We Need Climate-Ready Infrastructure

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.)

We Need Your Help in Pending Consent Decree

MiamiskylineMiami-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 topubcomment-ees.enrd@usdoj.gov Subject 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).   

Health Report on Algae Bloom in Biscayne Bay

Algae Bloom 2013 OCLA copy


To view this document as a pdf click here: Algae Bloom 2013 OCLA