Nassau County residents were recently invited by the county’s Planning & Economic Opportunity Department to review data projecting the impact of flooding, storm surge, and sea-level rise on property, homes, and businesses.
The News-Leader attended a Feb. 5 meeting on Amelia Island. Another flood outreach event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Hilliard library.
Projections are for a minimum sea-level rise of one to one-and-a-half feet by 2050 and a rise of up to six feet at Amelia Island by the end of the century. How quickly change occurs will depend on the overall acceleration rate of climate change. Adrienne Burke, Planning & Economic Opportunity director, said a measuring station in Mayport has recorded sea-level rise within the past 10 years equivalent to changes that occurred previously over a 100-year period.
Tropical storms are also projected to increase in intensity. The storm surge from a direct hit by a Category 5 hurricane is projected to submerge all but a small portion of the north end of Amelia Island.
On hand to answer questions were consultants from The Balmoral Group in Winter Park who worked on the project: Craig Diamond, environmental scientist; Alicia Barker, senior economist; and Randall Parkinson, Ph.D., coastal geologist.
Comparison of satellite images of episodic flooding of wetlands in the county from the 1980s to the present show significantly more water is being retained in the wetlands today. A model available at the meeting demonstrated the role of wetlands in managing coastal flooding.
Nassau County currently has no plan in place for conservation of wetlands, although the county is looking into a November ballot referendum to raise funds for such a project.
The Balmoral Group also produced overlays of flood-prone areas with census and public health data to demonstrate where septic tank systems are likely to be overrun by flooding and where special needs residents like seniors, low-income households, and occupants of trailer homes might
need extra help with emergency evacuation.
Nassau County is nearing completion of a countywide Vulnerability Assessment funded by grants from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The county’s website says, “A Vulnerability Assessment reviews future exposure to existing developed areas and future areas of development, financial exposure and risks to significant environment and cultural resources.”
Phase one of the study, completed last year, looked at flood-prone areas around Yulee and Callahan, the parts of the county with the most rapid growth. Data collected from that phase is now available online at http://bit.ly/3bCqHoA.
The second phase now underway, which is looking at Amelia Island and the area of the county west of Interstate 95 and north of State Road 200 and U.S. 301, including Hilliard, will complete the countywide study.
Although Phase 2 data is not yet available for viewing online, several maps were presented at the meeting showing how areas are likely to be impacted by storm surges, episodic flooding and sea-level-rise scenarios. These maps will soon be available online as well.
Data gathered in both phases of the Vulnerability Assessment will be presented to the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners in the near future, after which it will serve as a future planning tool for the county’s planning, building, fire and rescue and emergency management departments.
Nassau County residents are encouraged to know their flood hazard status and evacuation routes in an emergency.
Homeowners in flood zones A and AE have been urged to buy flood insurance. Renters and homeowners in other areas might also consider flood insurance.
Flooding is not normally included in the hazards covered by a basic home insurance policy and is usually purchased separately. Homeowners should check with their insurance provider to verify their coverage.
Residents can check the Nassau County Property Appraiser’s website under “Public Safety” to find out if their property is at risk for flooding. Residents can also call their city or county planning or building departments for more information.