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Mayor: Fort Lauderdale to invest $500m in flood prevention project

Man stands on stage speaking at a podium
City of Fort Lauderdale Facebook Page
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis gives his 2023 State of the City address flanked by commission members and executive staff at The Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday October, 4 2023

As Fort Lauderdale nears six months since the historic rainfall that flooded houses, roadways and vehicles, Mayor Dean Trantalis announced an ambitious and expensive plan to curb flooding in 17 neighborhoods throughout the coastal city.

"Let us talk about that massive rainstorm in April and the ensuing flooding," Trantalis opened his State of the City speech Wednesday at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.

The mayor went on to spend the first half hour of his speech talking about a half billion dollar water infrastructure plan aimed at preventing future floods and cleaning the city's drinking water.

In April the city was drenched with more than 20 inches of rain which flooded neighborhoods and left people with damage to their homes and vehicles. President Biden later declaredit a major federal disaster area.

"We're installing more tidal control valves, drainage pipes, building new outfall connections and drainage structures, creating new catch basins, raising seawalls, rebuilding swales and constructing stormwater reserves," Trantalis told the hundreds of people gathered inside the theater.

READ MORE: How bad was the damage in Fort Lauderdale? These teams went on the ground to find out

The city plans to invest $500 million toward stormwater infrastructure in 17 neighborhoods as part of its "FORTify Lauderdale" plan.

Trantalis promised the project would be completed in the next decade.

The mayor also talked about the city’s plans to build new infrastructure for drinking water. That includes replacing the Fiveash water-treatment plant — which is more than 60 years old.

"It's not just about getting clear water. I know we've been suffering with yellow or green water. The current Fiveash plant has just reached its end of useful life," he said.

The new plant — Prospect Lake Clean Water Center — was approved in February by a divided commission in a 3-2 vote. It's expected to cost the city $1.4 billion and result in higher water bills for residents. The water center will be able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and pump out 50 million gallons of water a day.

Fort Lauderdale has been dealing with an aging water and sewer infrastructure that came to a tipping point in 2020 when the biggest sewage spill in Florida's history unfolded along the city's scenic waterways.

More than 211 million gallons spilled from 1970s-era pipes, flowing down streets and into lawns, and, eventually, the city's postcard-ready canals.

Other priorities

The mayor's other priorities include addressing the city’s homeless, new affordable housing projects and public safety.

"Each day, the city's dedicated homeless outreach team make it their mission to engage with the homeless population and encourage them to accept help," he said.

This help can include financial resources, social services and housing opportunities. In the past, Fort Lauderdale passed an anti-panhandling ordinance that a federal judge said encroached on the first amendment.

Recently, the city welcomed a new affordable housing development called Seven on Seventh. The 72-unit building will provide half of the apartments for formerly homeless people and half for work-force housing.

Trantalis also celebrated the new police department headquarters that is currently under construction at 1300 W. Broward Blvd.

"It will have sufficient space for our police force and will be equipped with state of the art, technology and resources to help in our crime fighting efforts," he said.

Last month, the city commission increased the size of the police force for the second year in a row.

Gerard Albert III covers Broward County. He is a former WLRN intern who graduated from Florida International University. He can be reached atgalbert@wlrnnews.org
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