Experts discuss sea level rise and storm surge protection
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02/23/11 Janelle Irwin
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A projection of how Downtown Tampa may look after a hurricane.


photo by Kate Bradshaw, WMNF

Regional planning organizations met yesterday at USF to collaborate on issues involving sea level rise and storm surge dangers to the area. The Resilient Tampa Bay conference touched on threats the experts described as imminent.

Climate change has become something of a controversy locally, nationally and even globally. The topic has even sneaked its way into politics. But Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council’s Jim Beever said despite the speculation, climate change has already impacted temperature in recent years.

Beever say, if left unchecked climate change will lead to inadequate water supplies, urban flooding and a degradation of wildlife habitats and water quality. His job is to come up with plans to ensure the worst case scenario never becomes a reality. He said the implementation of those plans should be welcomed to areas like Tampa Bay that are impacted most by climate change.

The conference was held at USF’s Patel Center for Global Solutions and included experts from The Netherlands. They were invited to offer ideas on reducing the threats associated with sea level rise and extreme storm surges. The fact that two thirds of their country lies below sea level has given the Dutch good reason to find innovative ways to reduce threats. One suggestion to Bay Area planners was the implementation of inflatable barriers that would protect Tampa Bay from some of the effects of a large storm surge. But Chuck Miccolis of the Institute for Business and Home Safety said man-made structures aren’t the only steps to take.

The Department of Homeland Security created the Regional Resiliency Program to address issues involving catastrophic events in areas that are likely to be affected by natural disasters. In this area that translates to the possibility of a wide spread storm surge resulting from a hurricane or tropical storm. Ollie Gagnon III is Homeland Security’s regional Protective Security Advisor.

Protection of life and property isn’t the only concern for officials though. Emergency Management’s Holly Wade said threats concerning large storms play a role in economic development as well. She said careful thought is needed when determining the placement of emergency facilities, but it was also necessary to ease the minds of prospective businesses when competing for their presence in the Bay Area.

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