Southeast Florida Everglades

Background Information

Southeast Florida, home to the eighth-largest metropolitan population in the U.S., is especially vulnerable to climate change. In 2010, Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties came together to form the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact to coordinate on mitigation and adaptation activities throughout the region. The Compact represents a groundbreaking regional effort to foster sustainability and climate resilience at the regional scale.

This Southeast Florida team is focused on Broward County’s non-coastal communities, which share a border with the Everglades to the west and stand at an average elevation of six feet above sea level. With a population of 1.9 million people, Broward County is the second most populated county in Florida. The economy of Broward County is dominated by retail trade, health care and social assistance, and accommodation and food service. The highest-paid industries are management services; professional, scientific, and tech services; and transportation and warehousing.

Broward County’s current system of drainage consists of approximately 266 miles of waterways. The result is a highly managed, intricate system of canals and retention ponds with control structures and pumps that maintain the balance between flood prevention and over drainage. Flooding risks in South Florida’s non-coastal communities are often overshadowed by king tide and sea level rise risks in the region’s coastal communities. However, most of South Florida’s non-coastal territories actually border the Everglades. Low elevations make flooding risks ubiquitous throughout the region, meaning non-coastal communities need to prepare just as much as coastal communities.

Team Summary

The Southeast Florida Everglades team, which consists of regional experts from the City of Miramar, Broward County, Broward Regional Health Planning Council, South Broward Drainage District, and the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization, is focusing on managing flooding and extreme heat stressors in noncoastal communities through a racial and social equity lens. This team and many Compact partners have worked closely with the Institute for Sustainable Communities, which serves as the Compact’s implementation support organization. These Compact partners are firmly committed to working together, sharing best practices, and speaking with one voice when addressing the region’s climate challenges.

Promising Practices

  • The American Planning Association awarded Broward County’s Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department with the National Planning Excellence Award for Environmental Planning for the production of Broward County’s Climate Change Element, a coordinated initiative of 82 environmental policies that focus on local actions to help the community adapt to economic, environmental, and social effects of climate change.
  • The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact represents a new form of regional climate governance designed to allow local governments to set the agenda for adaptation while providing an efficient means for state and federal agencies to engage with technical assistance and support.
  • Broward County engaged the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond to provide racial justice training to thousands of staff, partners, and providers throughout the county.
  • The Broward County Comprehensive Land Use Plan was updated to include urban farming and food access. The City of Miramar has also adopted a series of climate and sustainability policies, including a development code supporting local food systems, a Property Assessed Clean Energy Resolution, an ordinance to prohibit the use of potable water for irrigation, and a green ordinance to implement sustainable initiatives throughout the city.

Key Challenges

  • Data collection – The Southeast Florida team requires more robust data to support policy decisions for climate resilience. While they are collecting good data, from groundwater conditions to the effectiveness of healthy living programs to stop preventable diseases, they are looking for ways to collect and present data relevant to decision-makers. They are particularly interested in data on potential costs of action versus inaction for policies to prevent extreme heat incidents.
  • Regional funding strategies – Regional climate and resilience solutions require aligned funding priorities across the region. Prioritizing resilience-related investments on diverse needs—from transportation infrastructure and public health to food security and inland flooding—is difficult at the regional scale.
  • Long-range planning – Cross-disciplinary conversations, planning, and benchmarking needs to occur between emergency responders and climate resilience planners.
  • Geography and demographics – Southeast Florida’s landscape and terrain, combined with its aging population and its expanding real estate market, make the region particularly susceptible to the effects of increasingly frequent and powerful storms—including flooding, power outages, saltwater intrusion, food insecurities, and new disease vectors.

For citations, see here.

Photo credit: “Everglades Landscape,” Pim StoutenCC BY-NC-ND 2.0