Coastal cities around the world face a variety of complex issues. These cities are more vulnerable to flooding, storm surges, coastal erosion and more. Changing conditions in the world’s climate act as threat multipliers, meaning they magnify problems that already exist. The Tampa Bay region is recognized as one of the top 10 most vulnerable metropolitan areas in the United States. Our area’s key vulnerabilities include urban flooding, storm surges, sea-level rise and increased heat among others.
Resilient communities experience multiple social and economical benefits. Becoming resilient can prevent loss of life or injury, reduce property damage, reduce business interruption and revenue loss, and can lower emergency response and disaster recovery expenses.
Clearwater residents and business owners can work with city staff to identify their property’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Understanding the current projections for sea-level rise and heat index for our area is important first step. Once these vulnerabilities are understood, a variety of resilient practices, such as the installation of living shore lines, improving the energy efficiency of your building, or increasing the tree cover around your property, can be planned.
- Between 2015 and 2017, the city served as a pilot community in the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Community Resiliency Initiative Project. This project enabled Clearwater to assess its vulnerability to increased coastal flooding and develop strategies to improve resilience. Soon after, the city amended its comprehensive plan to strengthen these resilience goals.
- The city manages and regulates development in its floodplains through provisions in its Community Development Code. In 2018, the city adopted new regulations, including certain higher standards to further reduce future flood risks to new construction in flood hazard areas. more resilient over time.
- In October 2018, Mayor Cretekos joined 21 other local and county governments to formally inaugurate the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, a group working across jurisdictional likes to reduce our region’s vulnerability to climate change. More partners have since signed on, and in January 2020, the mayor participated in a panel discussion at the Coalition’s Leadership Summit.
- The city’s Stormwater division actively identifies areas where the historic floodplain can be restored to provide additional protection from floods and climate change. An example is Kapok Park, where 243 homes were removed from a historic floodway and and wetlands were restored.
- Most projects of the city’s Public Utilities Department include considerations for flood resilience and sea-level rise. Generally, that includes making sure electrical components are sufficiently elevated or protected. The department is working on multiple master plans to include evaluations of how sea-level rise and flooding may impact water collection and treatment facilities and supporting infrastructure.
- In 2019, Clearwater mayor George Cretekos signed on as a Climate Mayor. The Climate Mayors group is a network of U.S. mayors who work together to address climate change by creating meaningful actions in their own communities. City staff actively participate in the group to share best practices and learn from other cities committed to sustainability.