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Researchers meet with community to develop strategies for stormwater, flooding risks

Now more than half-way through a year-and-a-half-long research grant, Jeff Carney and his group of researchers from the University of Florida are ready to begin strategizing methods with which Port St. Joe could better prepare itself for the impacts of flooding and sea level rise.

They’ve already completed a vulnerability assessment for the town, depicting Port St. Joe’s areas of greatest concern.

Now, they need feedback from the public to figure out how to best proceed with their actual planning. So, last Tuesday evening, the group hosted a public workshop at the centennial building to go over the thoughts, concerns and ideas of the dozen-or-so locals who showed up.

““We’re right in the middle of the project at this point. We’ve been working on it for about a year now… We’ve developed the vulnerability assessment, which is a lot of data. A lot of this work to this point has been a collection of data through numerous different sources and developing a series of models that demonstrate that data in maps.”

“At this point we’re coming to the end of the assessment, which is the collection of that data, and (we’re working on) the development of some outputs… We have the data. We have the maps. The second part of this project is figuring out what the city wants to do about that.”

After a brief presentation, members of the community were able to explore some of the models produced by the researchers and provide their feedback, which Carney said is an essential part of the next phase of their research.

The group’s work has been funded through the state’s Resilient Florida program, which seeks to address stormwater concerns statewide.

The June 20 workshop was not the first time the researchers had sought public input in the process of addressing Port St. Joe’s stormwater needs. 

In March of last year, while applying for the state funding, about two dozen locals joined Carney and the other researchers for a walking tour through various Port St. Joe neighborhoods, during which the researchers received feedback from the locals and worked to chart the city’s needs.

Then a public workshop was hosted to go over the groundwater and flooding issues specifically impacting the North Port St. Joe neighborhood under a second grant received by the researchers in March of this year.

“We did the walking tour, and we followed that up with the National Academies of Sciences grant,” said Carney. “So we moved that from just an idea, which led to some drawings, to this project and this grant and then that National Academies of Sciences grant looking specifically at North Port St. Joe.”

Both research grants, Carney said, are just steps the group is taking to eventually implement what they hope will be physical changes to the city’s landscape.

“We know these grants aren’t the same as putting boots on the ground,” he said, “but we hope that they will take us there, and we think that that would be the logical next step.”

“You have to complete this research before you are eligible to apply for the bigger grants, the ones that could be used to actually implement these ideas.”

The group has already applied for $1 million in funding through the National Academies of Sciences to implement nature-based solutions to stormwater in North Port St. Joe. If received, the funding could help design stormwater retention gardens, introduce rainwater barrels and create public infrastructure designed to mitigate some of the neighborhood’s worst flooding.

And in just a few months, Carney said, the group will be ready to assist the city in applying for state funding to implement changes in other parts of the city.

Carney said at least two more public meetings will be held before the research project is completed, and he encouraged locals to participate, stressing that their input would allow the group to better dress the community’s needs.

This feedback will be taken into account as the researchers work to plan strategies for the city’s stormwater concerns and work with the city’s government to implement changes to the Port St. Joe comprehensive plan.

“My objective in the next meeting is to talk about the positives, to talk about objectives,” Carney said. “I want to hear about what kind of city people want to live in. Do you want to build a walk? Do you want gardens? Do you need safer housing? I want to know.”

“… Adaptation is in response to a risk, but it’s also towards something desirable.”

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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