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'We're A Living Laboratory:' Miami Beach Works On Resiliency As Businesses Face Flooding

Miami Beach officials led a tour of the city's resiliency projects on Monday, showing off elevated streets, higher seawalls and three pump stations -- among other measures --  that they say will help with flood control. But some business owners on the tour said  that even with these steps they've still experienced flooding in recent weeks.

Antonio Gallo owns Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante, 1801 Purdy Ave. in Sunset Harbour. He says three floods in the past month have caused about $10,000  in damage. He anticipates his insurance will cover some of the costs, but he’d like to see the city help business owners more, especially because -- he says -- resiliency construction has decreased revenues.

"The construction they’ve been doing, it’s been two years already, so we’ve been suffering from that," Gallo said, "and now that they’re almost done, the pumps aren’t working the way they’re supposed to."

Andreas Schreiner, owner of the nearby Pubbelly, Barceloneta and Taco Belly restaurants, told the tour group his restaurants have flooded on multiple occasions in the past several weeks.

"There's something that's fundamentally wrong because when it's raining still very hard, water comes up through the drain like a geyser," he said. "I don't know when it's going to happen."

Sunset Harbour is one of the lowest points in Miami Beach, but extensive street elevation there has mitigated the worst of the flooding, city officials said. Bruce Mowry, Miami Beach's city engineer, said the recent flooding resulted from unusually heavy rainfall and an issue where the pumps were draining a construction site when they should’ve been switched to drain the streets. 

"We are learning every time we do our projects, and we are trying to improve on how we handle our drainage water," Mowry said. "We're a living laboratory. Every day we discover something new."

Gallo, the owner of Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante, said he understands the city is in the midst of a learning process.

"Everything is new for them," he said. "But they're not finding solutions right now for the businesses not to suffer from, in a way, their mistakes."

Mowry said Miami Beach is looking into federal grants and emergency money for business owners.

About 60 people attended the tour, which was organized by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and intended to coincide with the higher-than-usual king tides.