Monday, December 11

New construction and rising sea levels expected to worsen flooding in Florida, hydrologists say

If it seems like the flooding on the Treasure Coast is getting worse, it probably is and all the development going up around you may be partially to blame.

Hydrologist Chris Konrad of the U.S. Geological Survey has been studying the relationship between the two, and said between new construction and rising sea levels, the flooding in south Florida could only get worse.

Drainage systems associated with new development can send water downstream into places people are living, and that can cause flooding,” Konrad said.

Konrad also said development often removes vegetation and soil, which soak up water, and replace it with hard-to-drain surfaces.

If those areas cant store as much water, that water has to go somewhere,” Konrad said. “If an area used to have wetlands, for example, during rain storms, the water levels would have gone up, water would have drained into them, and so if any of those areas are now developed, people who are living there or working there are going to see flooding.

St. Lucie County now ranks 7th in the State for business growth, and made the top 10 list in Florida for new building permits and investments.

At the same time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a 300% increase in flood days in 2023 compared to the year 2,000.

It’s important to note, however, that much of that increased flooding is due to rising sea level, still governments said they’re having to adapt.

Which is why weve gone back to try to restore some of the natural oxbows in the river,” Erick Gill, communications director for St. Lucie County, said.

That’s just one of the many improvements Gill said the county has made.

He also said the county tapped in to $63.7 million in American Rescue Funding to help pay for water drainage and treatment improvements. One of those projects was a water retention pond now built in the White City neighborhood of Fort Pierce.

You go back 50 years ago, 60 years ago, before most of this county was developed,” Gill said, “it was wetlands.”

Port St. Lucie Public Works Deputy Director John Dunton, also said the city is constantly refining their stormwater infrastructure to ensure public safety, additional storage and water quality.

The city is also currently designing a planned improvement that will automate three facilities to increase water drainage flow and water quality.

Those improvements are part of a $2 million grant we were recently awarded through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Sunday, Dunton said Port St. Lucie received just under 5 inches of rain in five hours, which created a widespread acute flooding event indiscriminately throughout the city.

Dunton said crews were dispatched to areas of concern and water was subsiding. There were no signs of blockages or failures at that time.

Gill said some parts of the county also got about 8 inches of rain.

One of those to see flooding was Melvin Wallace, who lives in a neighborhood of Port St. Lucie Boulevard near Alcantarra.

I don’t know, its a mess,” Wallace said.

Wallace said the flooding forced him to travel through the rest of his neighborhood to find a way out, and said he feels like it’s recently gotten much worse.

“The waters getting higher here, I’m telling you, the water is getting higher here,” Wallace said.

Wallace said he hopes the improvements will start working, and soon, knowing if something doesn’t change, he’ll have to adapt.

Something’s got to be done, because this right here is a mess,” Wallace said.

Gill asked residents to be patient with the changes, as it takes time to implement different infrastructure.

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