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Sea Level Impact

Information and Resources

Sea Level Rise LIDAR Map June 2016.jpg

Sea Level Impact LIDAR Map [PDF] (accurate to 4 inches)

Elevation Height (Feet)

  • Schools
  • Bridges
  • Electrical Substations
  • Sanitary Sewer Lift Stations
  • UM Campus

Southeast Florida is widely considered one of the more vulnerable areas in the United States to the impacts of sea level rise due to our topography, extensive coastline, and porous limestone bedrock. The region relies heavily on our coastlines for tourism, recreation, development, and protection from hurricanes. The City of Coral Gables recognizes this vulnerability, especially with over 47 miles of coastline and waterways, and is developing short and long-term strategies, that are outlined below, to improve the City’s resilience.

Legal Considerations Surrounding Adaptation to the Threat of Sea Level Rise

SLR Paper Cover.jpgMindful of the growing threat posed by sea level rise and the many legal complications that will accompany it, Coral Gables commissioned the drafting of a white paper that lays out a comprehensive overview of various sea level rise adaptation policy options at the City's disposal and details key legal considerations and implications surrounding those various adaptation options, including, for example: financing options available under Florida law, various regulatory and market-based tools available (and municipal liability risks associated with each), the need for updating local governments' comprehensive plans, and even factors to consider in long-term retreat planning. This white paper aligns with the Regional Climate Action plan’s categories of public outreach, sustainable communities and transportation planning, risk reduction and emergency management, and public policy.

Scope of Work

Coastal wetlands provide essential direct livelihood services to millions of people, as well as critical regulating services such as maintenance of water quality, protection from storms and erosion, and carbon sequestration. Measuring the vertical movement of the coastal wetland surface and its constituent processes, and relative local sea-level rise (SLR) is necessary to determine whether a wetland can keep pace with SLR.

3 monitoring stations have been installed throughout the City waterways as a part of this project, with two of the stations including both tidal and sediment elevation (RSET-MH) monitoring: (1) Inland Coral Gables waterway, (2) coastal Coral Gables waterway, and (3) Matheson Hammock Park/Preserve.

Tidal & Water Level Monitoring 

Each of the 4 sampling stations include a pressure gauge (Level Troll with conductivity and pressure sensors) that is installed and referenced to NAVD88 and to RSET benchmarks. Water level data are recorded at 15 minute intervals. Locations for tidal stations include Blue Road and Islands of Cocoplum along the Coral Gables waterway where water surface height near coast and inland, to detect potential differences due to rain and canal discharge between inland and outflow waterway locations, are monitored. Mangrove forest water levels are monitored at each RSET site in Matheson Hammock Park and in Islands of Cocoplum mangrove forest areas (blue stars). As part of tidal station maintenance, pressure transducers are field checked with on-site water level measurements, desiccants checked and replaced as needed, and data downloaded monthly. All 4 stations are set up with a telemetry system to obtain real-time data

Tide Aware in Coral Gables

Sediment Elevation 

Two sediment elevation monitoring sites have been established in mangrove forest areas. From the benchmark pipe, a RSET arm with 9 vertical pins is used to measure the height of the soil relative to the referenced benchmark (36 measurements total). SET measurements are conducted every 6 months. Feldspar marker horizons are established to assess vertical change in soil elevation due to deposition of sediments and organic materials. 

Live Data Feed

CREST buoy with autosampler at the Blue Road sampling site

"CREST_1" bouy Livestream Data

What is Sea Level Rise? 

As the temperature of the earth changes, so does sea level. Temperature and sea level are linked for two main reasons:

  1. Changes in the volume of water and ice on land (namely glaciers and ice sheets) can increase or decrease the volume of water in the ocean
  2. As water warms, it expands slightly—an effect that is cumulative over the entire depth of the oceans.

What are Its Effects? 
Changing sea levels can affect human activities in coastal areas by

  • Inundating low-lying wetlands and dry land
  • Eroding shorelines
  • Contributing to coastal flooding
  • Increasing the flow of salt water into estuaries and nearby groundwater aquifers
  • Making coastal infrastructure more vulnerable to damage from storms.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency  

Global Perspective 

Global sea level has risen about 8 inches since 1880, and the rate of rise is accelerating. Rising seas dramatically increase the odds of damaging floods from storm surges. One analysis finds the odds of “century” or worse floods occurring by 2030 are on track to double or more, over widespread areas of the U.S. Across the country, nearly 5 million people live in 2.6 million homes at less than 4 feet above high tide — a level lower than the century flood line for most locations analyzed.

Actions the City of Coral Gables is Taking to Minimize the Effects of Sea Level Rise 

  • Sustainability Management Plan
    • In 2015 the City began developing a Sustainability Management Plan that includes proposed projects for city operations and an analysis of the overall community. The City will use to guide its efforts over the next 10 years to make Coral Gables a more sustainable and resilient community. Please click here for the latest copy of the plan. 
  • Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact 
    • On August 25, 2015 the City signed on as an official partner of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact that includes 26 other local municipalities from Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties. The goal is of the compact is to coordinate mitigation and adaptation activities across county lines. The Compact represents a new form of regional climate governance designed to allow local governments to set the agenda for adaptation while providing an efficient means for state and federal agencies to engage with technical assistance and support.
  • Expanding and Maintaining our Tree Canopy
    • Coral Gables has been designated as a Tree City USA for the past 32 years.
    • Coral Gables has over 38,000 trees
    • Tree Succession Plan- added 3,000 more trees and palms to our residential canopy.
  • Climate Resiliency Dialogue
    • In 2016 Coral Gables participated in a 5-week Climate Resilience Pilot project along with 4 other communities from around the country. The Climate Resilience Dialogues provided access to in-depth consultative dialogues with relevant climate and resilience experts to help support our City in our climate assessment and planning efforts. Experts provided excellent information and resources to incorporate into our sea level rise planning efforts such as which recommended forecasting models to use, locally appropriate adaptation strategies and funding mechanisms, strategies for community outreach and engagement, and information on upcoming workshops and webinars on climate adaption. The dialogues were in association with the White House Climate Action Champions. View the final report.
  • Sea Level Rise Impact
    • The Sea Level Impact assessment will collect data and identify critical city's infrastructure such as flood gates, outfalls, storm and sewer pump stations, buildings, habitats and connections to vital services and resources. The risk assessment will include king tides and storm surges and statistics and probabilities of their occurrence and be incorporated to the model SLOSH for the SLR levels. Scenarios will includes all hurricane categories analyses and results will be utilized to determine existing infrastructures impact. In addition ICPR storm water model will be created to be reflected at the existing GIS storm atlas. Finally an adaptation plan will be developed for each critical asset based on key attributes such as technical feasibility and economic impact, social and environmental factors. The adaptation scenarios will be reviewed and prioritized on the established risk and will also include the cost estimates.
  • Sustainability Advisory Board
    • In 2010 the City created a Sustainability Advisory Board (formerly known as the Green Task Force) whose purpose is promoting environmental sustainability for the City, as a way of living and conducting business to ensure a quality of life for the future generations. Please click here to view SAB meeting agendas, minutes, meeting schedule, etc. 
  • Flood Protection Information

Recap of the Coral Gables 3-Part Sea Level Rise Discussion Series 

During the 3-part discussion series attendees were able to learn from experts about the potential impacts of sea level rise in the community, review potential adaptation and mitigation strategies, and discuss public policy implications of sustainable development, and much more! The discussion series was organized in partnership between Coral Gables Commissioner Patricia Keon and the Florida International University Sea Level Rise Solutions Center.

Part 1: Dr. Todd Crowl: The Basics of Sea Level Rise

Part II: Dr. Ryan Stoa: Public Policy Implications

Additional Local Sea Level Rise Conferences and Discussions 

Sea Level Rise Simulation Tools

Additional Resources 

Resources for Students/Kids