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During a conference organized by the Green Chamber of Commerce of North Florida on Tuesday, Jacksonville City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor gave a preview of some of the recommendations that are set to be voted on this week by the Special Committee on Sustainability, which she chairs, and said the city will need to spend billions of dollars to protect against the effects of climate change.

Formed in late 2019 to help brace the city for the consequences of climate change, the City’s Special Committee on Sustainability is scheduled to approve a series of recommendations at its last meeting on Thursday, Feb. 25.
The committee was split into three subcommittees, comprising city employees and subject matter experts, and representatives. For the last year or so, they have been working to determine the deficiencies of the city and to come up with suggestions to fix such vulnerabilities.

During this week’s [email protected] conference, a weekly networking function put on by the North Florida Green Chamber of Commerce, Chair DeFoor outlined a couple of those conclusions and suggestions.“The Subcommittee on Education, Protection of Local Neighborhoods and Community Outreach reported the greatest danger that Jacksonville faces is flooding from the immediate threat posed by intense tropical storms to the steady increase in sea levels that will come over the next years and decades as the climate warms. For Jacksonville, with our 1,000 miles of riverfront and oceanfront, resiliency begins with keeping water out of our neighborhoods. It’s a multi-billion dollar fight that will be waged over decades to protect the city from the changing climate,” Councilwoman DeFoor said.

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Recommendations coming out of that subcommittee include:

  • Establishing education and public engagement tools to reach diverse audiences.
  • Using a social justice and equity lens when engaging in public discourse and allocating resources to be more inclusive of diverse populations.
  • Attempting to address unfair or exclusionary practices perpetrated by the government.
  • Coordinating with community organizations, government entities, nonprofits and businesses.

“The infrastructure and Continuity of Operations for Essential Services Subcommittee reported the city will need to identify flood prone areas where people and homes are the most vulnerable and recommend solutions to protect those neighborhoods,” said Councilwoman DeFoor.

Some of this subcommittee’s recommendations include the following:

  • Require, at the state level, that landlords disclose if a property has previously been flooded.
  • Decision making criteria should include examining how long people have been affected by issues like flooding.
  • Mapping impacts of resiliency projects for prioritization.
  • Encouraging better private development practices with a long term resilience vision in mind.
  • Planting native trees to help absorb stormwater runoff.
  • Examining land acquisition to help mitigate flooding.

Updating the city’s building code.

“The Subcommittee on Environmental Planning explored living shorelines, green infrastructure, wetland preservation, protection for the existing tree canopy, resiliency in the built environmental ordinances and planting more trees for stormwater and heat resilience and other related topics,” DeFoor explained.
The subcommittee said the the city will need to do the following:

  • Create a green infrastructure action plan.
  • Reevaluate new technology for septic tanks, which are increasingly expected to fail due to sea level rise.
  • Keep shorelines natural.

Establish a city-wide program to protect existing high risk lands, such as wetlands, to curb future flooding.
“We have a detailed way forward. This will not be without challenges,” said DeFoor. But, she said, “We can’t keep our head in the sand any longer.”
The councilwoman said the full committee will approve the recommendations during Thursday’s meeting, which residents can attend virtually via Zoom.

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