Longboat Key has hired consultants to assess the town's infrastructure and determine what it can do over the next few decades to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise.
Longboat Key has hired consultants to assist the town in preparing for the potential effects of sea level rise.
Town staff have been working with consultants from Aptim Environmental & Infrastructure Inc. since July 9 to assess the town’s infrastructure in the first step of a four-phase process that town leaders hope will lead to a series of steps to prepare the island.
“The ideal outcome would be realistic, reasonable and implementable adaptation strategies that make sense for the town, based on a practical projection of sea level rise,” said Isaac Brownman, public works director.
Longboat isn’t the only one making such preparations. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council has formed the Tampa Bay Resiliency Coalition to address sea level rise in the region in a similar way, and Manatee County is a partner.
Sea levels rise an average of one-eighth of an inch per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The idea to look a bit deeper at how sea level rise will affect the town originated from many sources, Brownman said, including Town Commission meetings, conversations with the public and comments from now-retired staff members.
The town hopes to have a comprehensive assessment of the town’s infrastructure by mid-October. The goal of this study, which will cost the town $49,000, is not to consider the causes behind sea level predictions but rather to suggest how the town can best prepare, Brownman said.
The town has made some progress toward making the island more resilient, including installing new valves on stormwater infrastructure to ease street flooding during high tides and enacting a new ordinance to allow higher seawalls.
But these initiatives were piecemeal and not part of a greater strategy, said Town Manager Tom Harmer.
The goal of the study is to create a comprehensive plan with a list of projects and improvements to protect the town from rising seas. That could include raising lift stations or moving electrical control panels, Brownman said.
To get to that point, town staff and consultants will collect and analyze data about sea level rise projections to establish a standard on which Longboat Key will operate. It’s that standard that will determine which projects will be prioritized, Brownman said.
“If the sea level elevations continue to rise as projected … what do those vulnerabilities look like in terms of roads, utilities, buildings and stormwater infrastructure?” Brownman asked.
That’s a question phase one of this study aims to answer.
Consultants also plan to meet with residents to discuss their concerns about sea level rise and how it can be best addressed. One of those residents is Tom Freiwald, the president of the Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force, a group that prompted the conversation months ago with a letter to the town.
Freiwald said he thinks it’s good that the town is taking action and hopes the town will take the final report and use it to move ahead.
“Our overall goal is to move this up to the highest level of thinking in the town management and government and for them to put an action plan together,” Freiwald said. “We want to put this on the forefront so it becomes part of the culture of Longboat Key.”