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City Council hears climate change vulnerability assessment

By Staff | Oct 24, 2017

The city of Cape Coral has more than 400 miles of canals and covers an area of 119 square miles. But by the year 2200, thanks to global warming, those canals and acreage could very well end up being in the Gulf of Mexico.

That was the warning sent by James Beever, planner for the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, as he presented a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment to the City Council during its regular meeting Monday at City Hall.

The report says that the extensive investment in coastal areas will be among the first to experience negative impacts from climate change such as more severe tropical storms and hurricanes, deteriorating water quality, wetter wet seasons and drier dry seasons, coastal erosion and more.

Much of the city is less than 10 feet above sea level and even storm surge is enough to inundate a good part of it currently. But in the future, with sea levels rising slowly as the ice caps start to melt, that sea level rise will be more permanent, Beever said.

In a worst-case scenario, by the year 2200, much of Cape Coral could be under water, with access to the city threatened. Only the north central and northeastern parts of the city would remain above ground.

What can the city do? Well, not much, at least on the cheap. One of the cheapest would be to raise the elevation on all new construction to about 15 feet, with no construction in the high-hazard zones and all rebuilds would have a one-foot increase to floor elevation, though three would be more desirable, Beever said.

The city could also build a dike around the city such as New Orleans has done, but projects like that are cost prohibitive, in the billions, Beever said.

Mayor Marni Sawicki said perhaps city staff could come up with a plan and bring it to the new council when it takes over next month.

Councilmember Rick Williams called the report one more tool they have to address the threat and allow council to make a logical decision on the matter.

In other business, the City Council filled three vacancies on the South Cape Community Redevelopment Advisory Board, two of which were reappointments.

Stacy Lomonaco and Ragen St. Peter were both reappointed, while Gregory Gebhard, a businessman downtown, was selected as a new member. All were selected unanimously.

Council also unanimously approved amending the land use maps, changing properties located on 106 Old Burnt Store Road, 606 Old Burnt Store Road and 4100 Tropicana Parkway, West, from single-family and multi-family to mixed use.

The move will help the city in executing its vision for Seven Islands.

Also, the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects feted the city of Cape Coral with an Award of Excellence for its Northwest Cape and Seven Islands Vision Plan. The award ceremony was held in July in Boca Raton.