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Image: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, Wikimedia Commons
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer
A condo collapse in Miami is prompting new conversations about the threats rising sea levels and flooding present to the nation’s infrastructure. Experts say that it’s too early to determine whether or not climate change contributed to the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers. But they also warn that as sea levels rise and cities sink, everything from sky-rises to bridges could be at risk of catastrophic damage. Now, cities like Miami are racing to save their foundations.
Sea-level has risen by 12 inches in Miami over the past century, rising 6 inches since the mid-1990s. Experts say that corroding building foundations will be one of the most significant threats to coastal infrastructure, but city residents and officials can’t agree on a course of action.
The Harder They Fall: In the case of Miami, the city’s porous limestone foundation acts as a sponge that soaks up water. As increasingly powerful storms bombard the coast, that sponge often overflows, damaging foundations, septic tanks, and freshwater supplies. “The groundwater enters the pores of the concrete and ultimately weakens it and erodes it,” said Albert Slap, the chief executive of RiskFootprint. “So, the foundations are subject to a lot of geological forces that could compact the soil underneath. It could cause voids. We just don’t know.”
Shimon Wdowinski, a professor at Florida International University, conducted a study in April 2020 and found that Champlain Towers South had sunk by 2 millimeters annually from 1993 to 1999. Despite this, a recent inspection found no cause for alarm. “There was nothing in the report that would have indicated a life-safety concern,” said an attorney for the condominium, Kenneth Direktor.
But Slap says that the event should be a wake-up call. “This is a tragic, devastating event, and it could be a canary-in-the-coal-mine-type event,” said Slap, noting that many buildings in the city already rely on sump-pumps to evacuate groundwater. “It’s not just one building. This could be something that could affect other buildings.”
Left With Few Options: In April, the city of Miami released a storm-water master plan and reported that it would cost the city $4 billion over the next four decades to fight sea-level rise. The town has proposed sea walls and underground piping, but coastal residents aren’t satisfied with the measures. Earlier this month, a proposal to build a 20-foot sea wall along Biscayne bay was met with opposition from residents who worried it would tank property values. Another plan suggested to instead build a large dune with mangroves and oyster reefs. A finalized plan is expected this fall, and advocates are hopeful that it can unite the city against climate change.
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Louisiana loses almost a football field of land each day, caused by a combination of climate change-fueled sea level rise, reduced sediment flow from the Mississippi River, and the land gradually sinking. One area that’s not slipping underwater: Avery Island, the birthplace of Tabasco hot sauce that’s still the […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and part of the state Cabinet have approved a highway extension spanning a portion of the Everglades. The move rejects a 2020 recommended order from Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk, claiming that the project was incompatible with continued efforts to establish protections in the region. Legal challenges are […]
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer Activists in Nevada are fighting to permanently protect a stretch of Mojave Desert with ecological and Native American cultural importance. The proposed site would be called Avi Kwa Ama National Monument and would encompass 594 square miles, including a Spanish Colonial Revival house that belonged to 1920s stars Clara […]
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