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Panel committee presents updated document

By Staff | Sep 3, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED In the updated version of its living document, the Captiva Community Panel's Sea-Level Rise Resiliency Committee notes that it appears that the rate of sea level rise is steadily increasing as shown in a chart from Carbon Brief, a United Kingdom scientific Website.

At the August meeting of the Captiva Community Panel, the Sea-Level Rise Resiliency Committee provided the panel with an updated version of a living document that outlines its ongoing work.

Earlier this year, the panel created the committee with the aim of looking at if the island needs to develop a future plan to fortify Captiva against the rising ocean waters. Comprised of residents and panel liaisons, and guided by a hired consultant, it has been collecting information and data since.

The group’s mission is to gather information on the effects of sea level rise’s impact on the island, including defining assets, consulting experts, defining areas of vulnerabilities and providing alternative approaches to the panel for resiliency and adaptation. It will cover 30 years in five-year increments.

The purpose of the living document, which is routinely being updated and the newest version provided to the panel, is to have one source for the “current knowledge base, plans, approach and decisions.”

At the recent meeting, the updated version had new sections added, along with some changes.

One added section shares an overview and background on the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, which was formed in 2010 among Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties as a way to coordinate their mitigation and adaptation activities across the counties’ lines.

“Since then, the four Compact counties have advanced local and regional responses to – and preparations for – the effects of climate change, including sea level rise, flooding, and economic and social disruptions,” the document states. “They have expanded to work with a growing number of federal, state, regional, municipal, nonprofit, academic, and private sector partners.”

The committee continues that the compact currently represents a new form of regional climate governance designed to allow local governments to set the agenda for adaptation, while providing state and federal agencies with access to technical assistance and support.

“The compact’s work is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading examples of regional-scale climate action, and it continues to serve as an exemplary mechanism for collaboration on climate adaptation and mitigation efforts,” the document states.

The committee notes that climate change is going to require research and solutions that no one community can achieve and recommends Captiva join other beach communities to build a coalition.

A related new section addresses the Southwest Florida Regional Resiliency Compact.

“We are working on becoming part of the Southwest Florida compact,” the document states.

It is attempting to do so through the Captiva Erosion Prevention District.

According to the committee, the compact is a collaboration of the counties and municipalities in Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties, which seek to work together on the issues concerning resiliency, to adaptively plan for the impacts of climate change and to engage the public. Its objectives include:

– Engaging the Southwest Florida community in the problem and the compact’s decision-making process

– Collaboratively adopting a sea level rise curve for future planning

– Collaboratively adopting target dates for planning

– Employing best scientific practices to analyze the region’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change

– Coordinating climate adaptation and mitigation best practices across county and municipal lines

– Coordinating and advancing responses to and preparing for social and economic impacts caused by climate change

– Developing a Regional Resiliency Action Plan, which will inform comprehensive planning across the region, and ultimately implementing it

– Collaboratively seeking funding to help each of the efforts

– Cooperatively developing a legislative strategy to enhance state and federal participation and funding

– Serving as a buffer to community overreaction and misunderstanding by providing reliable and credible information and educational resources to the public

The committee notes that all counties and municipalities will be invited to join the compact and sign the memorandum of understanding. Non-incorporated communities, such as Captiva, will be welcome to join but not sign the MOU. The MOU was finalized in June by a subcommittee that was made up of entity representatives, which included Sanibel Natural Resources Department Director James Evans.

The document states that the development team includes a representative from the Florida House and Senate, U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney and South Florida Water Management District representatives.

Dr. Michael Savarese, professor of marine science and environmental studies for Florida Gulf Coast University’s Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences, facilitated the compact’s formation. The finalized MOU will be presented to the voting boards for each of the entities in the next few months.

“We expect to participate with other alliances/groups as well, such as the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve,” the committee notes in the document.

Another added section outlines a recent Gulf Coast analysis from Michael Beck, research professor at the University of California and then-lead marine scientist for the Nature Conservancy, titled “As Costal Flooding Surges, Living Shorelines Seen As Savior.” Economic and risk-management models were used to determine the annual expected benefits and costs for different types of infrastructure.

“This study was for a very wide area (Texas to Florida) and may not be specifically applicable to Captiva, but can give some ideas of the relative cost/benefits,” the committee states.

The document reports that in terms of “bang for the buck,” sandbags were found to be the best investment. Natural defenses also ranked high. Restoration of wetlands, oyster reef restoration and barrier island restoration were listed. Beach nourishment in the eastern Gulf was cited, as well.

“That last one surprised many people because replacing beach sand year after year is often seen as a fool’s errand,” the committee states. “‘If the only choices you gave me were beach nourishment versus fully gray infrastructure,’ Beck says, ‘I’d choose the former as the lesser of two evils.'”

Under the “Funding” section of the living document, a few updates were made.

The committee previously reported that Committee Member Kelly Sloan had stated that there may be funding available for mangroves. In an update, she will start working on potential grants in the fall.

The committee also added a subsection for the Municipal Services Taxing Unit that property owners pay to Lee County for being unincorporated under “Funding,” plus property, sales and bed taxes.

The newest version of the document also notes that coastal scientist Ceryl Hapke suggested her company would be interested in modeling Captiva and its proposed resiliency options. The committee has requested that she submit a proposal for the committee and panel to view for consideration.

In addition, Dr. Peter Sheng, professor at the University of Florida and sea level rise expert, has provided the committee with a proposal to do a similar project for the island that he did for Collier County through a NOAA grant. He uses modeling tools that combine sea level rise, high tides and storms on bayside and Gulf-side for predictions of inundation. The initial cost is about $180,000.