Seminar held for rising sea levels, tidal flooding

Miami Beach asking Dutch for help solving problems with rising sea levels


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Florida Atlantic University held a seminar Thursday on rising sea levels and tidal flooding, a problem affecting Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach.

The National Weather Service issued a warning that Fort Lauderdale may seen minor coastal flooding this weekend because of higher than average tides. High tides have flooded parts of Alton Road on South Beach throughout the week.

"If you've lived here a long time, the high tides didn't cause much problems 20 or 30 years ago," said Leonard Berry with the Florida Center for Environment Studies. "What's changed is a very small amount of sea level rise that we've had, 5 to 8 inches over the last 50 to 60 years, and Florida's so darn flat that that small amount of change allows the tide to come up through the drainage system."

"I remember back in the 60s and 70s, you didn't see what you see now. You didn't see -- at high tide -- streets flooding," said Miami Beach city manager Jimmy Morales.

Miami Beach has contacted experts in the Netherlands, where most of the population lives below sea level. The European country has built a massive system of dams and pumps over the centuries to keep its cities dry.

"One of the things they do in the Netherlands is the way they design their projects, they try to create a lot of opportunities for water storage. So if they're building a garage, they'll put in levels underground so when it rains or there's flooding, water can go somewhere," said Morales.

"The Dutch have a very long history when it comes to water," said Esther van Geloven, the senior commercial officer at the Dutch Consulate General in Miami. "We realized we really need to work with nature and with the water to make sure our country's safe."

Miami Beach is spending at least $200 million on overhauling an aging drainage system with more pumps, higher sea walls, more storage for storm runoff and measures to keep seasonal high tides from flooding streets and neighborhoods.

Read: The Netherlands: Fighting (on) the water

"It's coming and the question is our we going to be prepared or not," added Morales.

"It's going to cost billions of dollars, but our assets are trillions of dollars," said Berry.