Seawalls may not protect against rising sea levels

Bernard Ryan showed News 6 his hurricane proof home that sits right along A1A in Flagler Beach.

"The reason we moved here was to get away from the hurricanes in Louisiana," he said.

Ryan has been lucky so far and only lost some shingles during Hurricane Matthew when the rushing waters wiped out 1.3 mile stretch of A1A.

Since then, the Florida Department of Transportation built an underground seawall north of 18th Street to Osprey Drive, and created deep French drains all along the road. Ryan would like to see a seawall put in front of his home to protect his property.

“If we have another one that actually hangs off the coast here and we get a lot of tidal surge, yeah, I’m going to be very concerned. If we had a seawall, I would not be as quite as concerned. The road itself, all we have is coquina rocks and the coquina rocks aren’t going to stop the water.”

Seawalls are an expensive solution. According to a Center for Climate Integrity report, Florida could spend $75.9 billion for more than 9,000 miles of seawalls by the year 2040. Some argue it’s a bandaid for the real problem that’s creating record floods and raging storms.

Dr. Jason Evans, Executive Director for the Institute of Water and Environmental Resilience at Stetson University said Florida is front and center for sea level rising issues because it's low lying. He said the gradual rise in sea levels has to do with the change in the Earth's climate.

"A warming of the oceans, ice melting from areas like Greenland and that is essentially causing the volume of the sea to go up," said Dr. Evans.

According to Dr. Evans, there are many factors contributing to this change including humans.

“We do believe as scientists, that the number one thing that’s driving climate change has to do with greenhouse gases, and so those come out of our cars, they come out of our power plants,” said Dr. Evans.

Florida has a lot of coastal properties worth billions of dollars and Dr. Evans said it's important to be proactive like cutting green house gas emissions and looking into new kinds of energy systems.

“We want to deal with the source of the problem, which is climate change, because once we get beyond a certain level of sea level rise, the amount of expense, it just becomes too overwhelming to even think about,” said Dr. Evans.

Stetson University Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience has received a $185,000 two year Florida Sea Grant to partner with the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council to implement a landscape conservation and climate resilience planning project.

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