The Herald yesterday reported on a proposed $1.5 billion project to upgrade Miami-Dade's antiquated water and sewer system. That system, according to the report, consists of 7,500 miles of sewer lines, "a good portion" of which "regularly rupture[s] and spill[s] millions of gallons of raw waste into local waterways and Biscayne Bay." The federal government has sued the county for allowing the system to fall into such disrepair, threatening the assessment of millions of dollars of fines.
The system includes a "controversial" waste water treatment plant on Virginia Key, an island along the beautiful causeway that connects the mainland, just below the Brickell area of the City of Miami, with Key Biscayne. The plan calls for renovating that plant at an estimated cost of $550 million.
The Biscayne Bay Waterkeepers, clean-water activists who filed to
join the federal action against the county, say spending hundreds of
millions of dollars to rebuild on Virginia Key is a waste, because the
spit of land is likely to be under water within 50 years.
The group points to a recent study by the journal Science
that showed the polar ice caps in Greenland are melting at three times
the rate originally believed. They also say a climate change compact
Miami-Dade agreed to with three other counties — which accepted a U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers study that shows sea levels will rise 3 feet by
2060 — shows the Virginia Key plant could be in peril.
down on Virginia Key the way they’re doing it is just stupid,” said
environmental attorney Albert J. Slap, representing the Waterkeepers.
“There’s not a dime in it for armoring the plant, or raising it. It’s on
a barrier island.”
Doug Yoder, deputy director of the county’s
water and sewer department, didn’t dispute the Army Corps findings, and
said the county could abandon the Virginia Key plant for a new plant on
the western edge of the county if federal regulators make such a demand.
“We certainly don’t want to spend a lot of money fixing up a facility we’ll soon abandon,” he said.
It makes no sense to me to have a water treatment plant on such a jewel as Virginia Key, but for reasons that have nothing to do with climate change. My guess is that it is convenient to invoke that spectre as county officials seek to put themselves in a position to get federal funds to move the plant somewhere else. The rising of the sea doesn't appear to be affecting another giant project near downtown.