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Inside Miami Beach's $500 Million Plan to Stay Dry

As Florida's glitziest resort city celebrates its 100th anniversary, dive into the ambitious effort to keep rising sea levels from raining on the parade.

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Miami Beach is one of the lowest-lying areas in a state with the second-lowest mean elevation in the country.

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But Miami Beach is threatened not just the water on its banks, but from below. It sits atop a porous limestone formation that allows saltwater to intrude up from the ground.

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As a result of these two factors, there aren’t many places for the water to drain to during heavy rains and high tides, so the streets flood.

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To alleviate the problem, the city is installing several dozen pumps at a cost of nearly half a billion dollars. The water gets shot out into Biscayne Bay.

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But it’s not clear how long this solution will hold. The UN now predicts sea levels could rise three feet by 2100, and recent data show sea level rise is accelerating.

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To prevent this, here are some measures being taken.

Sea Walls

Physically protects from high tides on the Biscayne Bay side. There are a total of 3 miles 3-foot-high sea walls, and the city hopes to raise them to five feet.

Higher Streets

The city has also begun discussions for raising the levels of the lowest-lying streets. Also, new buildings are being rased in a new level standard

Trees

Miami Beach used to be covered with mangroves, which naturally absorb water and prevent flooding. The city hopes to maintain and grow its mangrove supply.

Dunes

The city’s sand dunes form another natural barrier against sea level rise, and the city is devoting resources to keep them nourished.

credits

  • PRODUCED BY
    Rob Wile
  • DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
    Fusion Interactive
  • SOURCES
    Peter Harlem
    Miami Beach City
    Sea Level Rise Toolbox by FIU
    Google Maps