Dade County Needs 50-Year Sea-Level-Rise Plan, Democrat's Letter Urges

In recent months, Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez has been facing mounting pressure from environmentalists to do more to prepare the county for the inevitable rise of sea levels. So far, Gimenez has listened. In September, he passed an almost $500,000-year budget to tackle sea level rise and to hire a chief resiliency officer to take the lead.

But some activists say that it's still not enough — like Andrew Korge, a Democratic operative and future state senate candidate. That's why he's sent Gimenez a letter urging him to create a 50-year block-by-block adaptation plan that will keep Miami afloat by 2100.

“My fear is that in 15 years or so banks will stop giving 30-year mortages,” Korge says. “I'm going to be under water, literally and financially.”

There's still no consensus on exactly what Dade County should be doing to prepare for climate change; Miami Beach is amidst a multi-million dollar plan to install pumps and raise sidewalks. Dade County is still in the conceptual stages of its approach. 

Korge is from one of the most prolific behind-the-scenes political families, with ties to Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's campaigns. He's currently aiming for Gwen Margolis's state senate seat, potentially in the 2016 election, if the 80-year-old legislator decides to retire. (If not, he'll run when she's term limited in 2020).

He's already got opposition: State Rep. David Richardson is already targeting the seat, and Korge's letter is the latest evidence that sea level rise is going to be a big political issue in Dade County for years to come. 

In his letter, Korge says a plan could be developed within the next 18 months. He warns the mayor that if he doesn't act now the repercussions will be far greater in the future.

“Miami's future is in jeopardy. Our time is running out,” Korge's letter states. “Last week we saw unprecedented flooding across Miami thanks to sea level rise. Unfortunately, the sea level will continue rising.”

The third-generation Floridian says he's worried about the next generation looking to live in Miami. He points to squabbles in Tallahassee and Washington and says Miami-Dade county does not have time to wait. “The sea level will continue to rise regardless of their dysfunction,” he says.

It's not all criticism. In fact, Korge applauds some actions that the county has put in place, such as the Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force. But he says if sea level is to six to ten inches, as the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact expects, a plan needs to be put in place.

“JFK put a timeline on when America was going to land on the moon. Gimenez needs to set a goal. That's what a leader does,” Korge stresses.
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Jess Swanson is the news editor at New Times. She graduated from the University of Miami and has a master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Contact: Jess Swanson