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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.

Miami Launches First Phase Of $400 Million Forever Bond Program

Al Diaz
Miami Herald
The Forever Bond initiative is meant to curb flooding, increase affordable housing and make other city improvements.

The city of Miami announced on Tuesday more than 30 new public infrastructure projects, the initial phase of a multi-year plan to increase the supply of affordable housing, quell flooding and make other city improvements.

Funded by a $400 million municipal bond, the initiative includes redeveloped waterfronts along Brickell Bay Drive and the Miami River, renovated playgrounds in Overtown and Allapattah and new housing in Liberty City. The $58 million plan represents the first use of the bond, which voters approved during the November 2017 election.

“These projects will have an immediate impact,” said Mayor Francis Suarez who has overseen the initiative since succeeding former mayor Tomás Regalado, an original proponent of the plan. “We often talk about making Miami the most resilient city in the world. Today proves...that we’re committed to taking the necessary steps to make that goal a reality."

The launch of the plan caps a year-long and at times frustrating process to determine which projects to fund. City leaders had not drawn up a list of the projects when they first pitched the plan to voters. The change in mayoral administrations late last year then seemed to delay that process. At times, city administrators expressed concerns that commissioners would try to seek equal slices of the bond for their districts, even if needs in some districts are greater than others. 

But with the help of a citizen oversight board reviewing the projects, the commissioners finally allocated $43.6 million to road repaving, parks improvements and a renovated fire station in Flagami. The city will also purchase 50 valves that prevent water from flowing up through drainage pipes onto streets.

Another $15 million will fund new affordable housing projects, including two developments in Liberty City— Residences at Dr. King Boulevard and Liberty Renaissance. Some of the money will also go to a program that helps harden homes to withstand storms.

“It’s not just about building affordable housing. It’s about looking at it from all sides,” Commissioner Ken Russell said. That includes “subsidizing potential rents in certain situations, buying land in certain situations, working with developers who already have projects shovel-ready.”

The efforts to address sea-level rise will extend to both inland and coastal areas. Much of the money will go to installing one-way valves that prevent floodwater from backing up and releasing onto streets. Alan Dodd, director of resilience and public works, has said about 300 locations need the new valves.

Another main project will include the redesign of the low-lying, flood-prone Brickell Bay Drive. The area currently includes a street and a sidewalk. Jane Gilbert, Miami’s chief resilience officer, said the renovation will add green space along the street to resist flooding and make the area more of a park. Potential improvements to Jose Marti Park along the Miami River in Little Havana are also under review.

“Those two will help inform how we treat our waterfront going forward,” Gilbert said, noting that coastal flooding during Hurricane Irma helped inspire the plans.

Altogether, projects to address rising tides will make up $192 million of the $400 million bond issue. The city also wants to use the bond money to pursue additional funding and matching dollars for climate resilience initiatives.

Work on the first phase of projects is expected to begin in 2019. The city is still reviewing other projects to fund, including a stormwater master plan.

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