As Sea Levels Rise, Cities Must Build Climate Ready Infrastructure
By Alexis K. Segal
On Tuesday Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper (BBWK) submitted comments on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Miami-Dade County’s Consent Decree outlining the $1.6 billion dollar plan to start repairing Miami-Dade’s sewage infrastructure without accounting for the impacts to the system resulting from sea level rise, erosion and storm surge.
Despite articulated policies by the EPA, the Obama Administration and Miami-Dade County for a strong commitment to climate change adaptation and resilient critical infrastructure, the EPA and Miami-Dade decided to move forward with a zero sea level rise consent decree, lodged on June 6, in federal court pursuant to the EPA’s enforcement action against Miami-Dade for long standing violations of the Clean Water Act.
On May 14, BBWK won a hearing and was granted intervenor status, becoming a party in the EPA's enforcement case against Miami-Dade.
BBWK has been closely tracking the frequent sewage spills around the county since 2011, but Miami-Dade has been plagued with this issue for decades. The current settlement agreement will replace the governing decree lodged in 1994 and 1995, stemming from an earlier Clean Water Act enforcement case also related to sewage spills. Pursuant to that case, Miami-Dade received the largest civil penalties at the time for their violations. Although the former consent decree addressed many of the issues in the infrastructure—and Miami-Dade has been in compliance with those terms—it only accounts for one piece of the whole system. The Water and Sewer Department has been underfunded for years, and the sewage infrastructure system was described by a department manager as “held together by chewing gum.”
Joined by many local municipalities, advocates and national groups, BBWK lobbied hard for changes to the decree for months, providing multiple expert reports, practical solutions and specific suggestions to dramatically improve the draft consent decree before passage by the Miami-Dade County Commission.
Reports by Miami-Dade’s Water and Sewer Department approximate 12 billion is needed for total repair costs over the next 15 years, with approximately 1 billion for repairs that must be addressed immediately. The 1.6 billion dollar consent decree is slated to rebuild and repair significant aspects of the system, including the decrepit central wastewater treatment plant located on Virginia Key, a barrier island in Biscayne Bay.
The ongoing viability of Miami-Dade County depends on resilient critical infrastructure that will withstand foreseeable storm incidents, rising seas and population growth and will set an example for similar opportunities around the country. The strength of federal and local policies on climate adaptation will be determined by their application to the situations like the sewer system rebuild in Miami-Dade County.
The time is now for all stakeholders, near and far, to call for a safe and secure future and demand climate resilient infrastructure in Miami-Dade county. The world just witnessed the recent catastrophic devastation of Hurricane Sandy. We must make smart, thoughtful decisions to plan for the future.
Now, since local and federal leaders have turned their backs, it will be up to a federal judge to decide how to proceed. We need climate-ready infrastructure. Let us, as a nation, make the decision to invest in prevention and not waste billions more in future repairs or preventable cleanups; let us spend our money wisely; let us prepare for continued growth sustainably; let us have a long-term vision of our future.
The comment period ends August 11, so there is still time to get your voice heard. BBWK’s comment letter was accompanied by 28 exhibits. You can make a big difference in the final outcome of this situation.
Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.