© 2023 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
When it comes to climate change, one thing is certain: our oceans are rising. And South Florida is expected to be among the first regions on Earth to experience the impact. In fact, some initial preparations are already underway. WLRN-Miami Herald News presents a series of stories about the effects of sea-level rise. The project is called “Elevation Zero: Rising Seas In South Florida." Click through the pages below to see our entire archive of Elevation Zero stories.

An Idea To Mitigate Rising Seas In Miami Beach: Lift The Entire City

Kenny Malone

One way Miami Beach might prepare for the threat of rising sea levels is to elevate the whole city.

“The only tried and true solution to combating rising sea levels is to raise with it,” says Eric Carpenter, public works director for the City of Miami Beach.

As the city celebrates its centennial, the top-level engineer and Miami Beach resident spoke with WLRN about how sea-level rise will affect the city’s next 100 years.

Miami Beach has started installing pumps to keep water off the streets. The plan is to have 75 to 80 pumps in place by 2020. The city is also in the process of elevating some of its lowest roads and sidewalks by 1.5 to two feet.

But Carpenter says that’s just the start. There’s a very real possibility the entire city’s infrastructure -- roads, buildings, parks -- will need to be elevated an extra two, three or even four feet over the next 100 years.

“Obviously, the city can control our portion of the property and we plan on raising most of our land and we’re hoping that the private development community follows suit.”

Key excerpts from WLRN’s interview with Eric Carpenter:

On the sea-level rise projection being used by the City of Miami Beach:
“All we can really count on are the projections that are made by the people that do this for a living. The Army Corps of Engineers are a great source of information. They’re projecting anywhere between seven and 24 inches of sea-level rise over the next 50 to 75 years. ... We’re kind of picking numbers that are in the mid to upper portion of that range to be on the conservative side.”

NOTE: Projections vary widely on sea-level rise numbers. Task forces put together by Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in 2007 and 2009, respectively, projected seas to rise anywhere from two to six feet by the end of the century.

On gradually lifting an entire city:
“We’re trying to buy 50 years' worth of time with this pump system to be able to incorporate a lot of additional changes throughout the city. Raising of streets 2 feet is a great start but over the next 50 years we’ll be looking to raise even more. Obviously over a 50-year horizon, you’ll see much turnover in private properties, commercial establishments, residential buildings. You’re going to see a lot of turnover in 50 years and as long as we’re putting the codes in place now to require those buildings to build to reasonable flood criteria, we believe that the entire city will actually raise over time in a gradual manner so that it doesn’t become obvious to the naked eye.”

On what an elevated Miami Beach would look like:
“I don’t know that we’ll ever get to the Key West model of not building anything that’s habitable on the first floor. However there may be some buildings that it makes sense to have some sort of garage or storage component on the first floor so that the finished-floor elevation of the livable space is up five or six feet from where it is today.”

If you're having trouble imagining five to six feet of elevated city, Carpenter is pictured next to a metal box at the top of this post. He says that box is about 4.5 feet off the ground. Not a coincidence:

“This is a control panel for one of our many pump stations throughout the city. And this control panel is set at this elevation because it is supposed to be out of the 100-year flood plane to make sure the electrical components have no fear of having to face flood waters in the future... This is one of the reasons why we’re looking at elevating the streets in some of these low areas of the city because, as you can see, this would be a lot closer to the finished-floor elevations in many of the buildings.”

More On This Topic