Tampa Bay area leaders release roadmap for local governments to help protect coast against changing weather

Tampa Bay area leaders recently released a roadmap to get governments on the same page to protect our coast and become more resilient to changing weather.

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council released a regional resiliency action plan to lay out dozens of steps to protect people and places over the decades.

"If we're going to continue to preserve and work together to enjoy this region, we need to be mindful that we are vulnerable," said Sean Sullivan, the executive director at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. "Certainly, Hurricanes Ian and Nicole have taught us the reason that we need to become resilient is really to protect life in our property."

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It establishes a road map for 32 municipalities from Citrus County down to Sarasota County. Sullivan said this plan is the first of its kind in the Tampa Bay area and only the second in Florida.

Some of the eleven-priority regional action include reducing flood risks to coordinating on regional shoreline design.

"Our roadway network needs to be built in a resilient way so that it's high enough and that the drainage from the roadway can drain properly and methodically into areas that will allow transportation to pass," said Sullivan.

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The Tampa Bay Estuary Program helped write the plan, and assistant director Maya Burke said some things should be the same across communities, like sea walls.

"We have more than 20 municipalities that line the Pinellas Barrier Islands to coast," said Burke. "And so, if everyone had a different sea seawall height regulation, that would make for a kind of messy patchwork that that didn't really protect people and property in the way that it ought to."

But Burke said the plan is a menu of options for everyone, so governments can create an overall meal to nourish Tampa Bay.

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"It doesn't say that any one community must do one of these actions, but it sort of tries to point us all in the right direction," said Burke.

The resiliency action plan is meant to be a five-year-long plan to start making changes, and 2023 would mark year one. The regional planning council said they want to meet with every government to ask them to adopt the plan.