Post’s Christie, Goodman tell WPTV’: ‘South Florida sea-level rise threat is real’

The Intracoastal Waterway between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach an hour after high tide. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

We’ve been beating the drum on the issue for weeks now: The message that there is no graver threat to the future of South Florida than the accelerating pace of sea-level rise. By 2060, the sea is predicted to rise another 2 feet, with no sign of slowing down.

RELATED: Editorial: Wake up, South Florida! Speak up on sea-level rise

The editorial boards of The Palm Beach Post, South Florida Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald — with reporting help from WLRN Public Media — have joined hands in an unprecedented collaboration this election year to raise awareness about the threat facing South Florida from sea-level rise. Our goal is to inform, engage, provoke and build momentum to address the slow-motion tidal wave coming our way.

The collaboration is called The Invading Sea.

To that end, we (Post Editorial writer Howard Goodman and me) went on WPTV-Channel 5‘s  “To the Point” to discuss the threat of sea level rise with host Michael Williams.

As we’ve said previously, most South Floridians get it. The Yale Climate Opinion Maps show 75 percent of us believe global warming is happening, even if we don’t all agree on the cause. We understand that when water gets hotter, it expands. And warmer waters are melting the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. If all of Greenland’s ice were to melt — and make no mistake, it’s melting at an increasing clip — scientists say ocean waters could rise 20 feet.

The problem is, too few of us are convinced sea-level rise will personally harm us in our lifetimes. We’ve got to change that mind-set because it already is. Lila Young, who has lived on the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach for 30 years, said she’s seen the king tides progressively getting higher and flooding her neighborhood more often.

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Palm Beach County is fortunate to have a slightly higher elevation, which means the risks aren’t quite so acute here as for our neighbors to the south. Still, the high-priced real estate on the barrier islands is equally vulnerable, along with the low-lying mainland along much of West Palm Beach’s Flagler Drive. As the sea level rises, the agricultural area south of Lake Okeechobee will drain more and more slowly after a major rainfall. And when significant hurricanes and floods hit farther south, we may see a sudden flood of people from Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Are we ready? Are we taking the threat of sea-level rise seriously enough?

Christie: Will new One Flagler tower push bring the same old questions?

Kenneth Himmel, president and CEO of Related Cos., speaking at the monthly Palm Beach Chamber meeting at The Breakers, is expected tor renew a push for his proposed One Flagler project . (Melanie Bell / Daily News)

It’s been the worst-kept secret in West Palm Beach since the March 13 election.

Mayor Jeri Muoio is looking to make another push to create the controversial Okeechobee Business District (OBD), which is basically a way to allow the Related Cos. to get approval to build the proposed 25-story One Flagler tower on the waterfront.

It’s also been no secret that the mayor was not happy after September’s City Commission vote to create the OBD went 3-2 against her and Kenneth Himmel, president and CEO of Related.

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Himmel, the developer of CityPlace and more, has done a lot of good for downtown West Palm Beach. To that end, he and Muoio share a vision of a European-influenced downtown that attracts financial heavyweights to the shores of the Intracoastal Waterway.

The problem is that a lot of downtown residents don’t necessarily agree with this vision, especially when the city looks to make a decision that appears to benefit a single person or company. And not to mention if there is no legit reason for making an already horrible traffic situation even worse.

The proposed One Flagler tower was rejected by the West Palm Beach City Commission last September by a vote of 3-2.

The Post Editorial Board took issue with this, and the way the process appeared to be manipulated before the City Commission’s closely-watched September decision narrowly voting it down.

“It looks beautiful in the drawings. The proposed One Flagler in West Palm Beach — designed by renowned architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, of New York’s Freedom Tower — is less an office tower than a work of art: tiered, slender, luminous, yet restrained.

The tower’s developers, The Related Cos., admirably intend to preserve the handsome and historic First Church of Christ, Scientist, and to memorialize the long-neglected African-American architect Julian Abele.

But they want to put their 25-story building on a waterfront site zoned for five stories. To accomplish this, the West Palm Beach City Commission is being asked on Monday to carve out a glaring exception to the city’s Downtown Master Plan by creating an “Okeechobee Business District” that will allow 25-story buildings to benefit, basically, this one property.

However attractive this tower may be, the contortions being done to the city’s zoning rules are ugly. So are the political strong-arm tactics employed to dampen opposition, such as the abrupt removal of a veteran member of a key planning board who had asked pointed questions about One Flagler… “

But the March election changed the make-up of the commission. There are two new members, one of whom replaces a former no vote — Shanon Materio.

RELATED: Editorial: 25-story One Flagler too much for West Palm waterfront

With Tuesday evening’s Planning Board meeting on the OBD scheduled, I thought it a good idea to re-publish last September’s editorial and ask about a potential future vote.

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