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Fort Lauderdale unveils new plan to curb flooding after 'wake-up call' April deluge

A man rides a canoe on a flooded neighborhood street in front of submerged cars.
Courtesy of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue
Rescue workers had to use canoes and small boats to navigate flooded residential streets during the April flood in Fort Lauderdale.

The mayor of Fort Lauderdale called the April flooding a “wake-up call” for the city to speed up and expand flood-prevention infrastructure projects during a presentation on the city’s new flood-prevention plan: Fortify Lauderdale.

The plan's objective: to get water out of those neighborhoods faster.

Public Works Director Alan Dodd said he hopes it will prevent flooding in the coastal city that just six months ago was inundated by more than 25 inches of rain leaving the city paralyzed under feet of water.

The plan will update stormwater infrastructure in more than 25 neighborhoods over the next decade. The city initially planned to upgrade infrastructure in 14 neighborhoods but after the April flooding the city reevaluated and revised their plan for 25 neighborhoods.

Most of the neighborhoods currently have little to no stormwater infrastructure, according to Tuesday's presentation.

Presentation slide shows neighborhoods that can expect upgrades to their stormwater infrastructure in the next decade.
City of Fort Lauderdale
Presentation slide shows neighborhoods that can expect upgrades to their stormwater infrastructure in the next decade.

The project is expected to cost upwards of $700 million over the next decade. City officials say they can cover some of that through federal and state grants, but taxpayers will be picking up the tab through higher bills as well.

READ MORE: Reports on Fort Lauderdale flood show heroism, weaknesses as city ramps up infrastructure projects

Time is not on the city’s side. Many of these projects should have been started many years ago, according to Mayor Dean Trantalis.

“Had we done this ten years ago where the studies were telling us that these projects needed to be done, we wouldn't have had as significant a problem as we did suffer this past April,” Trantalis told WLRN, adding that the city has for too long encouraged development and population growth without updating infrastructure to keep up with the load.

The delays and development combined with climate change bringing harsher storms and sea level rise are an equation that coastal cities across the country are trying to find solutions to.

“These type of rainfall events are becoming much more frequent and impacting our residents much more than they did ten or 20 years ago,” said Dodd.

The project also calls for educational programs for residents who want to apply to grants to make their homes more resilient and also purchase flood insurance. Options also include a “cost-share program,” where the city helps pay for some of these projects like raising seawalls.

Dodd plans to request six new staff members to staff the project. He also wants to increase the city’s operations team from 33 to 43 people who would operate pump and vactor trucks used to drain water from neighborhoods. He’s requesting over a million dollars for two more pump trucks as well.

The city unveiled the plan Tuesday, but has already started construction in Edgewood and River Oaks, some of the areas that saw the worst of the flooding in April.

Next on the list are the Durrs and Dorsey-Riverbend neighborhoods.

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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