Controversial flood mitigation projects cause frustration in Miami Beach

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Five years of work, more than $40 million spent, and plenty of frustrated Miami Beach residents later, the city’s flood mitigation projects remain controversial.

Residents in the Palm and Hibiscus islands said they want the city to be held accountable for the mishaps of the plan. The projects include installing pumps, generators, and elevating roads.

The city’s position throughout the project has been that local officials are only responsible for the city-owned property, residents said. Some residents find this unfair since everyone in the city is vulnerable to sea-level rise.

Some Miami Beach residents have had to redo their driveways without compensation from the city. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

Several homes were left sitting well below street level. In some cases, residents were required to redo their driveways without compensation from the city.

There are driveways that slope sharply down from the street. This caused the city to put in drains on private properties without the approval of regulators.

Related report: Management of the infrastructure improvement project

A Feb. 8 report by Joseph Centorino, the city’s inspector general, criticized the city’s management of the project. Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian requested the report after several issues and delays.

The former interim city manager, Raul Aguila, in turn, disputed the inspector general’s report in a Feb. 9 memo saying all of the decisions made during the project were in “the best interest of the residents, and with the clear direction and approval of the appropriate authorities.”

Not every Miami Beach resident is satisfied with the city's flood mitigation projects. Several homes were left sitting well below street level. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

Samuelian acknowledged there have been missteps, but he said these are valuable lessons learned. Miami Beach is among the first in the country to invest in resiliency projects.

“We need to make sure we’re learning the lessons particularly as it relates to road elevation; that we treat our property owners fairly,” Samuelian said, adding that “these are complicated problems, but we need to make sure that we’re getting it right.”

Related document: City manager’s memo

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