January 30, 2019

MARATHON — The city of Marathon is taking advantage of a grant to plan for rising seas and more frequent flooding. The effort will ultimately result in updates to the city’s comprehensive land-use plan.

The city has deemed a coastal resiliency study is crucial for protecting the health and safety of its residents and businesses as well as minimizing and mitigating adverse effects due to high tide flooding, sea level rise, storm surge and flash floods.

Hurricane Irma in September 2017 caused significant damage in Marathon and demonstrated the town’s vulnerability to flooding and sea level rise.

At its Jan. 22 meeting, the Marathon City Council approved a $55,350 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to complete a coastal resilience project covering the area from the Seven Mile Bridge to Grassy Key.

The project responds to the state’s “Perils of Flood Requirements” and allows the city to refine its surface water management and flood damage prevention. There is no grant match requirement.

The project will include creating three-dimensional maps using digital elevation data and drone technology, model analysis of the current and future impact of nuisance flooding for at least two potential flood scenarios, several adaptation alternatives and an educational outreach plan.

Earlier this month, the city joined the American Flood Coalition to advance national solutions to sea level rise and flooding and to protect its residents. The city recognized that flooding during king tides is already a costly nuisance that will grow worse as sea levels continue to rise.

Sea level has risen eight inches since 1950. Its speed has increased threefold in recent years, with scientific projections forecasting another eight inches of sea level rise in the next 20 years. Sea level rise also poses a unique threat to Florida given the limestone bedrock beneath much of the state, which allows rising sea water to infiltrate sewage systems and threaten groundwater supplies.

The city further recognized that proactively investing to prevent flooding is a wiser use of resources than spending on flooding recovery, as exemplified by Federal Emergency Management Administration research showing that $1 spent on disaster prevention saves $4 in recovery costs.

The Marathon study is expected to be completed May 10.