Miami-Dade Polls Residents of Flood-Prone Arch Creek Neighborhood On Sea-Level Solutions

May 18, 2018

In one of Miami-Dade’s most flood-prone areas, county officials on Thursday night collected public input on what to do about water from storms and and rising seas.

About 30 people came to the meeting on the Arch Creek neighborhood, in North Miami Beach. After hearing a presentation on the area's flooding challenges, they were asked to complete a poll comparing different adaptation options like sea walls, living shorelines and green infrastructure. The effort drew mixed reactions: community members said they appreciated county staff hosting a public discussion on Arch Creek's ongoing flooding challenge, but had questions about the polling.

"I wish it could've been more productive," said Mary Benton, a Miami Shores resident. Her husband, Doug Barnes, added, "Building and infrastructure development is really important. We need to start taking action."

Read more: Disaster Risk Modeling Can Be Romantic (Although That's Not Why South Florida Governments Care)

The app that county staff had planned to use for the poll didn't work, so participants ended up answering questions with a show of hands. They then participated in a feedback and Q-and-A session. Many people said they though the poll should have included how much money the various options would cost. 

County staff described the poll as a "preference survey" they will continue to refine.

"It's a way of engaging you and you giving us feedback," Jim Murley, chief resilience officer for Miami-Dade County, told the crowd.

Murley said many different combinations of options will be on the table for helping Arch Creek and other areas adapt to South Florida's increasing water challenges. And despite the poll's shortcomings, it did seem to show this particular group of residents prefers green solutions to mechanical ones: options like living shorelines and green infrastructure tended to beat out installing pumps, raising roads and building seawalls.

Some in the audience said they think polling people for their adaptation preferences is inadequate given the magnitude of the sea-level challenge South Florida is beginning to face. Miami Shores resident Mary Benton said she found the Q-and-A discussion with county staff more interesting and useful than the poll.

"The question of getting people activated is really important," she said. "People need to understand how important this issue is and how to make things better."

Murley said Miami-Dade may eventually take a refined version of the poll to other areas of the county.

"For Southeast Florida, probably, of all the places in the United States, there’s a lot interest and a lot of information, and a lot of people asking tough questions," he said.

For more information on Miami-Dade's sea-level rise and flooding adaptations in the Arch Creek area and elsewhere, go to www.miamidade.gov/green.