The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has written the draft of a new proposal calling for a $6 billion, 20-foot-high wall in downtown Miami to protect it from storm surges and rising sea levels. Most of the wall would be inland, separating neighborhoods, but a one-mile stretch would be built in front of the financial section along Brickell Blvd.
The proposal is still in its early stages, and any construction is at least five years off. But the idea of a massive sea wall cutting across Biscayne Bay has already drawn some criticism.
“The $40 billion in assets you’re trying to protect will be diminished if you build a wall around downtown because you’re going to affect market values and quality of life,” Ken Russell, a Miami city commissioner who represents the Brickell area, told The New York Times.
The Federal government ordered the Army Corps to study how to protect South Florida from a storm surge after Hurricane Irma left parts of Miami underwater three years ago. Miami is perhaps the city most exposed to rising sea level in the U.S., and more intense and more frequent storms, particularly in hurricane season, have added to the problem.
South Florida is low-lying and sits on porous limestone, which lets ocean salt water swell up through the ground. Some streets in Miami fill with water even on sunny days, and salt water spoils underground aquifers and ruins old sewer pipes and septic tanks.
Other parts of the Army Corps’ plan include creating surge barriers at the mouth of the Miami River and other waterways, fortifying police and fire stations to hold back water, planting mangroves as a first line of defense, and elevating or flood-proofing thousands of homes and businesses.
Critics say elevating homes will benefit the wealthy, with waterfront homes, at taxpayer expense. Some citizens’ groups propose a combination of dunes, sea grasses, coral reefs and mangroves to protect against the surge along the coast. For its part, the Army Corps says the threat in Miami-Dade is too severe for these measures. Read more: