Punta Gorda takes steps to prepare for future sea level rise

Published: April 5, 2019 4:09 PM EDT
Updated: April 5, 2019 7:00 PM EDT

With the many miles coastline in Southwest Florida cities are preparing for future sea level rise.

Punta Gorda leaders actually started preparing for changes a decade ago, but now they are changing their plan to keep the city dry.

Gary Skillicorn’s Punta Gorda isles home is a few steps away from a canal. The water rises during big storms but his house could be at risk if it were to rise just a few feet.

It’s a long-term concern skillicorn said, “It is nothing tomorrow or next week or next month, but over the long-term.”

NOAA says the sea level is rising 3 mm per year in Punta Gorda, which won’t be a problem right away, but it could be catastrophic in a few decades.

Mitchell Austin, chief planner for the City of Punta Gorda has concerns if action is not taken now, “If we plan to fail today, we may put infrastructure on the ground that is not viable by the end of its life-cycle and that would be a waste of taxpayer money.”

The city’s solution: planning to prevent.

It purchased vulnerable land along the harbor so if it floods, public property won’t get ruined.

And now, they’re thinking even further ahead, hoping to avoid flooding downtown, in the historic district, and along canal front properties if sea level were to rise three feet.

While Skillicorn wants to protect his home, he says sea level rise likely won’t affect him personally, “To look forward 50 years or 100 years it’s hard to get too concerned about that.”

Punta Gorda’s planning team is looking at different options to find out what is best for the most vulnerable areas of the historic city, now and in the future.

The city is at the beginning stages of revising its plan, but is considering adding a living shoreline, making drainage improvements, or adding large-scale flood gates in at-risk areas.