Jacksonville is peering into a very expensive future.
Although the taxpayers have spent billions on infrastructure over the past 25 years, they face many billions more.
Estimates are flying around: $2 billion for sewers and septic tank removal, a billion more for drainage.
And, now: untold millions for “resiliency” – a term that is used to describe ways to keep our feet dry.
The seas are rising. How much? That’s a matter of conjecture.
NOAA says they have been rising at the rate of 1/8 inch per year, which would be 10 inches by the end of this century if it continues at the same rate.
However, planners using computer models say the rise by the year 2100 will be 2 to 3 feet. That would present problems for the oceanfront and riverfront areas of the First Coast.
The City Council Special Committee on Resiliency has been looking at the problem and trying to fashion ways to meet it head on and minimize the damage.
The state government also is on board, proposing to spend $100 million a year on resiliency.
The first action locally would be to establish a new bureaucracy with a chief resiliency officer.
Flooding, a longtime problem in the city, is expected to increase and much of the effort will be directed to finding ways to lessen the impact. Another seaside city, Miami, is spending $500 million in that regard, and is only getting started.
Of course, there is a cost to doing nothing. The committee says the right strategies actually would mean a net benefit. For example, they calculate building-level adaptation would produce $38 billion in benefits against a cost of $4.4 billion.
As heartening as that estimate is, the fact is that a family struggling to put a son in college or pay for a daughter’s wedding has to pony up the cost now and hope the benefit materializes and some of it falls their way.
As always, the local government is hoping that the state and federal governments will pick up some of the cost and spread it to other taxpayers.
But they still are talking about the possible need for an increase in the local sales tax and/or general obligation bonds.
The committee headed by Council Member Randy DeFoor spent a lot of time and drew on the expertise of many people in preparing its final report. The goal should be to do what actually is needed without unduly imposing costs on the taxpayers – the exact opposite of what Congress is doing with its endless “stimulus” bills.