The City of Coral Gables, with 42 miles of coastline consisting of $3.5 billion in property value, is on a mission to diligently protect vulnerable areas, landmarks, and the overall quality of life from the dangers presented by climate change and rising sea levels.
In 2015, the City Beautiful took the first step to combat climate change and other related issues by joining the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, a regional effort in South Florida between Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties collaborating on the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies.
The City has remained very active within the compact by sharing best practices with other cities and by regularly attending the annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit.
A major step was taken in 2016, when the city commission appropriated $190,000 to undertake a vulnerability assessment of all critical infrastructures within the city’s boundaries. This study analyzed future years’ prediction models on king tides and storm surge, and graded the resilience of the infrastructure in place. It also detailed adaptation strategies and the expected cost of upgrading at-risk facilities and processes.
As a result of these efforts, the city was selected as one of five communities around the country to participate in a first-of-its-kind resiliency dialogue, allowing access to scientific experts and potential industry partners for future projects. After this experience the city was asked in 2017 to participate as an Expert City and guide Boynton Beach with similar initiatives.
For current infrastructure upgrades, the city is leveraging the ENVISION rating system (similar to the LEED building certification), which assesses the level of resilience and resource efficiency. Concurrently, Coral Gables is planning ahead by allocating moneys into an infrastructure reserve account, currently at $1.4 million, with the goal of accumulating over $100 million by 2040 to help in addressing future sea level mitigation and adaption efforts.
Through the city’s multiple sustainability efforts, paired with ongoing public outreach and education on environmental issues, a group of dedicated city staff continues working with community stakeholders to ensure our resilience. To better inform businesses and residents of the potential risks of rising sea levels, the city’s IT Department has created light detection (LIDAR) maps that provide public infrastructure’s elevation levels.
The city also has partnered with Florida International University to study water level information through monitoring stations that record real-time data every 15 minutes. Residents have access to all of this information at the city’s Smart City Web page at www.coralgables.com.
Ultimately, day-to-day implementation of these long-term endeavors to prevent sea level rise involves establishing and working toward real end goals, such as reducing electricity usage, water consumption, fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions which the city has set to reduce by 20 percent by 2025. In addition, the city also has set a waste diversion goal of 75 percent by 2020.
A piece of this puzzle is having the largest municipal electric vehicle fleet in the state of Florida. Coral Gables has introduced electric alternatives to transportation, such as Freebee electric vehicles available at no cost to citizens around Downtown Coral Gables, and electric scooters as first and last-mile transportation options around the city. City facilities are being retrofitted with energy efficient LED lighting sources.
These are some of the sustainable strategies that the City of Coral Gables is implementing to create an eco-friendly community. With the support and participation of all residents, Coral Gables continues to learn, adapt, and react to climate changes and be well-prepared to face the challenges of sea level rise.