Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tampa Bay planning tip: Learn to swim (video)

Posted By on Sun, Oct 25, 2009 at 11:41 AM

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We all know the Tampa Bay area is notoriously inept at short or long-range planning. Most would rather work on their tans, or try to forget that nasty divorce up north, than do the heavy lifting required to intelligently plan for our region’s future.

Examples of our incompetence are everywhere. We lack mass transit, housing for the homeless,  good architecture and planning, appreciation (or even knowledge of) the history of our area,  potable water provided without sucking local rivers dry, or even  places worth caring about.

As it turns out, we may be off the hook. It may not matter in the future that we’ve been such custodial goof-offs.

Gordon Hamilton, a research professor at the University of Maine, and members of Clean Air-Cool Planet gave a presentation at the Florida Aquarium on Thursday morning that illustrates how most of Tampa Bay will be under water by 2100 anyway. How much water? Estimates vary from a low of three feet to a high of six feet, maybe more, and they presented maps that show what our region would look like if the sea rose 20 inches, 3.3 feet, and 6.6 feet.

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Area at risk of inundation from a 20-inch sea rise in Tampa Bay

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Area at risk of inundation from a 3.3-foot sea rise in Tampa Bay

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Area at risk of inundation from a 6.6-foot sea rise in Tampa Bay

Say bye-bye to Davis Islands and most of South Tampa and Bayshore Boulevard. Adios to the Tampa International Airport and MacDill Air Force Base. Harbour Island? It becomes a place to scuba dive and explore a 20th century dream development. I won’t even venture across Old Tampa Bay to Pinellas, where the situation is grimmer.

I’m optimistic that rising ocean levels will garner a headline or two, maybe a restless night's sleep, but we’ll soon forget about it. Tomorrow, that beautiful sun will come out with a hint of fall in the air, and we’ll leave the regional heavy lifting to future generations as we’ve always done.

We could investigate places like Holland, which have survived for hundreds of years with an elevation below sea level. Certainly, building a dike completely around Florida would keep the currently out-of-work building construction industry employed for years to come.  Our beautiful coastal beaches and coastal marine ecosystems would become unfortunate pawns of progress at its finest.

Maybe we do nothing. The thought of all of that mindless sprawl, shoddy housing subdivisions, McMansions and their obligatory SUVs, developer swindlings, and poor planning being inundated by millions and millions of gallons of salt water seems like justice prevailing to me. It could well be a fresh start for Tampa Bay and Florida. Either that or we can start scouting out that future coastal property in Temple Terrace.

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