Broward Takes Bold Step in Planning for Climate Change

Author:  Dr. Jennifer Jurado
BROWARD COUNTY, FL. - The Board of County Commissioners took a bold step today to address the impacts of climate change by adopting stronger planning requirements for new building projects and major redevelopments.

During its public hearing this afternoon, the Board unanimously approved the creation of a future conditions map series in the Broward County Code of Ordinances to anticipate changes in topography, infrastructure and environmental conditions brought on by climate change. Commissioners today also adopted the first map of the series, a future conditions wet-season average groundwater elevation map. The map, which will go into effect on July 1, 2017, strengthens the requirements for drainage and surface water management systems to ensure they will function even with the additional sea level rise expected by 2060.

Sea level rise presents unique challenges in South Florida. Rising seas infiltrate the porous limestone geology underground, causing groundwater levels to rise, reducing drainage capacity, compounding flooding, and threatening drinking water supplies with saltwater contamination.

The Board also approved another climate-related item voting to advance a project to integrate sea level rise into an update of Broward County's 100-Year Flood Elevation Map. The Flood Elevation Map is one of the key regional tools used to establish flood elevations for buildings and structures in Broward County.

Broward Vice Mayor Beam Furr recognized the Board's leadership. "Broward County has invested significantly in the tools and analysis underpinning today's action and other forthcoming changes," he said. "We are aware that rising seas require changes in our planning and design standards, to ensure that our communities remain safe and livable. This is just the first of a series of important regulatory changes that will need to happen."

Vice Mayor Furr added, "While these steps are essential, acting to limit the climate change impacts we will face as a community and as a nation is equally important, if not more important. This will require aggressive reductions in carbon emissions. Given the increasingly severe climate impacts occurring across the nation, and the decades of delay in taking serious steps to cut emissions, we are now at an urgent point and cannot afford to waste any more time. We need to act now."

Dr. Jennifer Jurado, the County's Chief Resilience Officer and Director of the Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division, oversees the future conditions mapping projects. "With the influence of climate change, and the impacts of sea level rise in particular, it is unwise to rely solely upon historic and current environmental conditions as the basis for infrastructure planning, design, and construction," Dr. Jurado said. "As communities cope with increasingly frequent and severe climate-related impacts, I think there is a growing appreciation that investments in resilient infrastructure are key to reducing risk, protecting public safety, and stimulating the economy, both here and across the nation."