Delray to study impact of raising seawalls

Posted at 7:25 PM, Apr 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-22 19:25:52-04

Delray Beach city leaders want to make sure your home or favorite dock is not constantly under water when the tide rises.

After 22 years living on the Intracoastal Waterway, Jerry Barding has seen it all.

“When we get those super high tides, it looks like people are walking on water on their docks,” the Delray Beach resident described.

The city’s environmental services director has seen it too.

“Where I’m standing would be 4-6 inches under water,” John Morgan said standing at Veterans Park.

He said seawalls in the city are not consistent.

The one next to Barding’s seawall, for example, is about a foot shorter than his. So even if Barding’s wall blocks water, it can still get over the shorter one and damage Barding’s property, or city streets, sidewalks and parks.

“We’re looking city-wide at all the seawalls,” Morgan pointed out.

Later this year Morgan and his team will begin researching ways to fix the problem. One option at the top of the list is setting a new minimum height for seawalls in the city. It may apply city-wide, for specific areas, for new seawalls, or for existing seawalls. Morgan said it’s too soon to nail down how any policy change would look.
It's a move Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale are seriously considering.

“They're ground zero for these issues,” Morgan said. “We're a little higher in elevation so we have a little more time to plan.”

Barding is already a step ahead. He raised the seawall on his property five years ago when replacing his dock to avoid future problems.

“Anything to keep the water out of your backyard and your pool I think is a good thing,” he said.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to other big cities in Palm Beach County. Boca Raton says it has no immediate plans for seawall changes.

In West Palm Beach, a spokesman said staff is looking at conceptual ideas to change building regulations instead of focusing on seawalls. One idea is to require new structures to be built on higher elevation.