By: Austen Erbalt
A new partnership between Palm Beach County and 10 of its coastal municipalities is hoping to combat the effects of climate change with a particular focus on sea level rise.
The Coastal Resilience Partnership consists of Palm Beach County, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Briny Breezes, Delray Beach, Gulf Stream, Highland Beach, Hypoluxo, Lake Worth, Lantana and Ocean Ridge. It was formally created with a grant from the Florida Resilient Coastlines Program, an initiative by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to provide assistance and funding to coastal communities dealing with flooding, erosion and other changes.
Over 30 local representatives from the municipalities met at the Swinton Operational Complex in Delray Beach Feb. 28 to discuss and craft official principles within the partnership.
“It is truly inspiring to have so many of our local leaders ready to take action on climate change,” said Rebecca Harvey, Boynton Beach’s sustainability coordinator. She is also managing the grant-funded portion of the project.
“With the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s support, we are able to face this challenge as a united force,” she said. “Approaching climate adaptation as a regional partnership will enable our communities to avoid costs while creating a more robust and consistent approach to climate adaptation.”
Last November, Boynton Beach joined the American Flood Coalition as part of its efforts to combat and prepare for rising sea levels, an effort led by Harvey.
Representatives from each municipality and the county have met informally over the past year to discuss sustainability planning and preparedness.
Carollo Engineers, Inc., an environmental engineering firm with offices in Coral Springs, Miami, Sarasota, Tampa and West Palm Beach, is providing consulting to synthesize data and help develop a vulnerability assessment.
“Our team is sincerely humbled and proud to be part of the CRP in uniting the region and paving the way for a cohesive climate adaptation strategy,” said Juan Oquendo, vice president and senior project manager of Carollo Engineers.
“As a local resident, I have experienced firsthand effects of climate change and rising sea levels and I am excited to take action,” Oquendo said. “Our team will create the framework of a climate vulnerability assessment considering the unique challenges to preserve our coastal communities.”
Harvard University Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic is providing pro bono assistance to formalize the collaboration, develop terms for a joint request for proposals and contribute information on climate vulnerability assessment best practices.
During the Feb. 28 meeting, Coastal Resilience Partnership members discussed future planning efforts, such as infrastructure, social and economic issues and protecting vital natural resources.
The coalition has future meetings planned for the spring and summer, but exact dates are not yet available.