By Kevin Deutsch
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced more than $80 million in grants to South Florida communities to address flooding and stormwater issues—with nearly $4 million going toward a new stormwater pump station in North Lauderdale.
The $3,285,000 award from the state will pay for the much-needed North Lauderdale facility adjacent to the C-14 canal. Officials say the anti-flood infrastructure will mitigate the impacts of heavy rainfall and tidal events on the regional drainage system and the C-14 canal.
North Lauderdale endured significant flooding in 2020 during Hurricane Eta. The city has had difficulties pumping out stormwater after heavy rains due to limited pumping capacity within a sprawling, heavily-trafficked part of the county, including Coral Springs and Tamarac.
The government of Broward County, too, will receive a state funding boost to fight floods: $16,676,000 to pay for stormwater infrastructure to protect areas from storm damage and prevent floodwaters, including pipes and drainage systems for treating runoff, officials said.
“Today, we were able to devote $80 million to fund projects that support economic growth, protect our environment, and improve hurricane mitigation–this is how you build strong communities,” DeSantis said in a written statement announcing the grants.
State officials say the money is being awarded to South Florida communities through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program. Funding received through the grant program is earmarked for enhancing community infrastructure, supporting the environment, and mitigating against damage from future storms.
Money paid out by the program comes from federal funding given to the state in response to Hurricanes Irma and Michael.
Officials said that funds from the program are going to several other South Florida cities for infrastructure, including Hallandale Beach, which will receive $14,879,219 to modernize its outdated sewer system.
According to the state, the City of Miami will get $19,859,977 to support flooding and right-of-way improvements and another $18,477,439 to pay for flood improvements in East Little Havana.
Rebuild Florida is administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and allows local governments to develop large-scale infrastructure projects intended to make them more resilient against future disasters.
“Hardening Florida’s infrastructure is critical to ensuring that our state remains prepared and equipped to withstand any future natural disasters…” said Dane Eagle, Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “We will remain diligent in protecting homes, businesses, and the livelihoods of Floridians for years to come.”
Despite the funding boost for anti-flood infrastructure, experts say South Florida still faces major threats from climate change, rising sea levels, rising groundwater, and aging flood control systems in the years ahead.
Officials have said billions more in infrastructure improvements are needed to pay for work on canals and pumps to deal with the problems, including in Broward’s inland communities.
Earlier this month, Representative Christine Hunschofsky (D-Parkland) introduced a bill in the Florida House of Representatives requiring sea level impact studies to be performed on all state-funded infrastructure projects at risk of damage from rising waters.
One problem the bill aims to address: As groundwater rises, rainwater from Florida’s inland communities will not drain out to sea as easily, experts say. Instead, water will back up into the region’s western communities with potentially disastrous consequences.
A large-scale study is expected to be conducted by local and federal agencies in advance of major anti-flood infrastructure projects being developed in the region.
To get the process underway, $500,000 has been allocated in President Joe Biden’s annual federal budget.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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