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Flooding’s Impact on Infrastructure Part 1

Floods are among the most destructive natural hazards on the planet. In the United States, floods cause an estimated $8 billion in damage each year. Rising floodwaters destroy homes, roads, landscape, and otherwise drastically damage our nation’s infrastructure. Nowhere in the U.S. should this be more of a concern than in Florida, where regular flooding is already threatening to make some areas of the state uninhabitable

In this two-part article, the Florida construction lawyers at Cotney Construction Law discuss how flooding is impacting our nation’s infrastructure and the construction companies that must not only repair damaged infrastructure but also build to standards that can hold up to flooding. As waters continue to rise, construction companies will need to overcome challenges they have never faced before to keep their heads above water.

A Rising Problem

As the Sun-Sentinel reports, fair-weather flooding will become more frequent and can be expected to reach an average of five days in the Southeast. Five days of flooding doesn’t sound like much, but these high tide days are expected to increase to as much as 15 days within the next decade, and up to as much as 75 days by 2050. 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) annual report, “Annual flood records are expected to be broken again next year and for years and decades to come.” This problem is coupled with the fact that sea levels are rising by an average of one inch every eight years. In fact, sea levels could rise as much as 34 inches over the next 40 years. It’s clear this isn’t a problem for future generations. This is a problem occurring now, especially in Florida. 

A State at Risk 

Flooding can take many forms, including flash flooding, river flooding, and coastal flooding. It can also be caused by inclement weather as well as dam and levee failures (more on levees in part two). Florida is at a particular risk of flooding due to the state being battered year after year by tropical storms and hurricanes. In fact, from 2000 to 2017, flooding, storms, and hurricanes caused 25 federal disasters in Florida

In the coming years, Florida will become increasingly susceptible to flooding, regardless of hurricanes. “As relative sea level increases, it no longer takes a strong storm or a hurricane to cause coastal high tide flooding,” reports the NOAA. “High tide flooding—which causes such public inconveniences as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm drains and compromised infrastructure—has increased in the U.S. on average by about 50 percent since 20 years ago and 100 percent since 30 years ago.” 

Local Governments Are Stepping up 

Although they are racing against the clock, local governments have been moving forward with infrastructure projects to mitigate the impact of flooding. These efforts include elevating buildings and converting repetitive flood loss properties into green spaces that can better protect communities. One such effort is taking place in Miami Beach, where the city plans on spending $500 million to improve pumps, upgrade pipes, and elevate roads — a project that could take a decade to complete. To the North, Fort Lauderdale is installing 152 tidal valves, planning for stormwater projects in seven neighborhoods, creating seawalls, and lining stormwater pipes. 

Efforts like those seen in Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale aren’t isolated incidents. As the Sun-Sentinel reports, “All across South Florida, cities and counties are acting not only on their own initiatives, but in concert with others to find ways to defend against sea-level rise and the high seasonal tides that accompany it.” In Palm Beach County, representatives from Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lantana, and Lake Worth, among others, gathered on Aug. 24, 2018, to discuss ways to protect infrastructure from flooding. 

The construction industry is at the forefront of this battle against flooding. While legislation will ultimately determine what projects move forward, it’s your construction company and workers that will be out there improving the lives of Florida residents. These projects can be lucrative opportunities for industry professionals with the expertise to see them through to completion. Be sure to keep an eye on local procurement portals, such as those for Miami-Dade County and Broward County, for emerging opportunities. For assistance with navigating the bidding process, including bid protests, consult a Florida construction lawyer from Cotney Construction Law. 

Everyone Should Be Invested

The South Florida Water Management District website states that “flood control in South Florida is a shared responsibility between the District, county and city governments, local drainage districts, homeowners associations and residents.” And as a Florida construction attorney will discuss in part two, construction companies will have plenty of opportunities to grow their businesses, aid their communities, and solve the growing flooding problem. 

For more information on how flooding is affecting federally funded infrastructure projects, read part two

If you would like to speak with one of our Florida construction attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.