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We must make our communities resilient to extreme weather, flooding and sea level rise, and as one of the most vulnerable areas in the country, we must act now.
Pulling this off won’t be simple. Sustainable resiliency requires significant investments of time and money. But by making common sense plans now, followed by far-reaching action, we can protect our infrastructure, the region’s economic health, and our citizens’ well-being.
That’s why it’s important for citizens to get involved, just as elected officials are pushing resilience higher on our lists of priorities. As Chair of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, I am pleased to announce we will host the second Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Leadership Summit April 5 and 6 at the St. Petersburg Hilton Carillon. The event is being held by the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, which includes 32 local governments spanning from Citrus County to Sarasota County.
One of the key sessions will bring together Mayors Ken Welch (St. Petersburg), Jane Castor (Tampa), Frank Hibbard (Clearwater), and Woody Brown (Largo) to discuss plans for making their cities more resilient, sustainable and equitable.
Attendees will hear from experts and government officials on topics ranging from how cities and counties can turn ideas into reality to how flooding impacts real estate and property insurance. The Coalition members and partner organizations will then discuss the Coalition’s new regional action plan, which is designed to address the impacts from flooding and sea level rise. As the Coalition moves from making overall recommendations to working with local governments to take action, it is critical that we lean on our neighborhoods for input and direction.
Under the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s leadership, the region has taken meaningful steps and elevated our collective regional resiliency work. Helping this along are a number of grants, including a $400,000 grant awarded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, with the City of Tampa as a partner, for three resilience projects in the Tampa Bay region.
But there is definitely more work to do.
According to a recent report authored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we can expect our surrounding seas to rise over 11 inches by 2050. That’s the same amount of sea level rise as what we’ve experienced over the last 100 years.
Imagine the stresses on our wastewater and water infrastructure, the impact on our roadways and low-lying green spaces, and the threats to the region’s housing inventory and businesses in the face of higher and more frequent flooding, if we do not respond accordingly.
If we don’t make our area more resilient, we could very well see businesses impacted and property taxes diminish. But this doesn’t have to be our future, because we have the ability to address these issues now.
For these plans to work, we need involvement at all levels of our community. I invite readers to participate in the Council’s Resilient Communities and Homes Survey, which will help guide discussions at the Leadership Summit and will provide input into the Coalition’s action plan. Getting this input will be a key ingredient as we determine how to turn ideas and concepts into actionable plans.
Take the survey, and tell your elected officials that resilience matters to you. In return, our elected leaders will continue to work to give our area a more resilient and sustainable future.
Brandi Gabbard is Vice Chair of the St. Petersburg City Council and serves as Chair of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.