US Senator Joins BC Commissioners and Fort Lauderdale Officials for Tour of King Tide Flooding Sites

Author  Jason Liechty

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island joined Broward County Vice Mayor Tim Ryan, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, and Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Romney Rogers Wednesday evening for a tour of sites in Fort Lauderdale at risk for flooding by seasonally-high “king tides.”

The group of elected officials visited areas near East Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, including the Riverwalk near the historic Stranahan House, Broward County’s oldest structure.

Low-lying Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods near the New River and the Intracoastal Waterway are particularly susceptible to king tide flooding. Saltwater can overtop seawalls, seep through the ground adjacent to the water bodies, and even flood areas not adjacent to waterways by backing up through the pipes that discharge stormwater to the ocean under normal conditions.

Broward County Vice Mayor Tim Ryan said, “Our coastal communities generate tremendous economic activity not just locally, but for the state and nation as well. We’re very pleased that Senator Whitehouse has taken an interest in the challenges and opportunities here in south Florida, many of which we share with his home state of Rhode Island.”

 â€œExtreme high-tide flooding and rising sea levels are economic issues, not just environmental issues,” Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca said. “Investing in infrastructure to protect residents and businesses will be far cheaper in the long run than repairing the damage from flood after flood.”

King tides occur twice a year when the rotation of the earth aligns with the gravitational fields of the moon and sun to exert maximum influence on oceans, producing higher-than-normal high tides and lower-than-normal low tides. These extreme high tide events have grown increasingly severe over the last several decades as a result of rising sea levels, and the rate of rise is accelerating.

Present-day extreme high tides will become the normal tides several decades from now, as sea levels continue to rise and the rate continues to accelerate. The current king tides therefore provide a glimpse into everyday conditions in the future, unless action is taken to adapt.

Sen. Whitehouse is co-chair of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change and a noted advocate for climate issues in the US Senate. Vice Mayor Ryan and Commissioner LaMarca represent districts which account for over 80 percent of the Atlantic Ocean coastline of Broward County, including many areas affected by tidal flooding.

Senator Whitehouse, Vice Mayor Ryan, Commissioners LaMarca, Mayor Seiler, and Commissioner Rogers were accompanied on their tour by Lee Feldman, City Manager of Fort Lauderdale; Susanne Torriente, Assistant City Manager of Fort Lauderdale; Dr. Jennifer Jurado, Director of the Broward County Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division; Chris Bergh, South Florida Conservation Director for the Nature Conservancy; other city and county staff members; several local residents who have been affected by tidal flooding; and members of the media.

Both Broward County and the City of Fort Lauderdale are actively exploring and implementing measures to address tidal flooding and rising sea levels. For example, backflow preventers are being installed on storm sewers by the City to prevent seawater from flowing into the sewer system when water levels are high. In addition, Fort Lauderdale and Broward County recently completed a pilot project to make use of the Adaptation Action Area comprehensive plan designation available in Florida law to identify and direct resources to areas subject to coastal flooding and sea level rise impacts.

Broward County and the City of Fort Lauderdale are also lead participants in the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, the nation’s leading example of coordinated regional action to adapt to climate impacts and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.