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Sea-level rise of concern for Miami

Pressure mounting on elected leaders

MIAMI – When it comes to sea-level rise, Miami is ground zero.

Salt water is encroaching and water managers are already adapting to a new normal.

Pressure is mounting on elected leaders to ensure infrastructure is climate-ready, and South Florida has a lot to lose if nothing is done.

On its list of 20 coastal cities most at risk from assets' exposure to coastal flooding, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked Miami as No. 1.

Mitch Chester, a Sunny Isles Beach attorney with a passion for the issue, said he's worried condominium associations and homeowners are not adequately informed and prepared for what is coming.

Jayantha Obeysekera, director of the Hydrologic and Environmental Systems Modeling Department at the South Florida Water Management District, said flood-control structures built in the 1950s are becoming ineffective. Such is the case for a canal along South Miami River Drive.

On Virginia Key, just a few feet from Biscayne Bay, sits Miami-Dade County's central wastewater treatment plant. Facing the threat of a lawsuit and millions of dollars in fines for Clean Water Act violations, Miami-Dade County struck a deal with federal regulators to overhaul the county's aging sewer system, but no specific language involving sea-level rise was included.

Albert Slap took the issue to federal court, hoping a judge would force the county to redraft the plans to accommodate for sea-level rise and expected strong storm surges, but he couldn't convince a judge to make it a legally binding obligation.