WEST PALM BEACH -- The importance of preserving wetlands, mangroves and beaches while building resilient infrastructure was discussed at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Resiliency Forum, held Dec. 1 in West Palm Beach.
The forum was originally scheduled to begin on Sept. 28, the same day Hurricane Ian swept into Florida.
Dr, Wes Brooks, Florida Chief Resilience Officer, said Hurricane Ian created 15 feet of storm surge on the west coast and up to 11 feet of storm surge on the east coast, and dropped up to 21 inches of rain in a torrential band that stretched across and south of the I-4 corridor.
“These numbers are dramatic and they translated into real tragedy,” said Brooks.
He said recovery efforts should include resiliency measures to prepare for future storms, Brooks noted resiliency measures that were already in place before the storm hit made a difference in limiting damages in those areas.
Significant progress is happening at the state level, he continued. The 2022 Statewide Resilience Plan will add $1.1 billion in investment to support projects across the state.
Dr. Carolina Maran, SFWMD Chief Resiliency Officer, said SFWMD is analyzing decades of records about regional rainfall, elevations of coastal structures, saltwater intrusion in coastal aquifers, salinity levels in the Everglades, estuarine and mangrove inland migration and soil subsidence in South Florida.
She said they are also monitoring water supply and plans for future water supply. “The restoration of beneficial freshwater flows throughout the system slows down saltwater intrusion, and promotes sustainable aquifer recharge rates, healthier estuaries and bays and more stable coastlines,” she explained. Beneficial freshwater flows also reduce marsh dry outs.
She said nature-based solutions such as Mangrove Migration Project can build protection against sea level rise naturally.