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How do you hide a large pumping station without ruining the aesthetic of a beloved park?

That was a central question Thursday night as Village officials drilled down on the most consequential, expansive and expensive infrastructure project in Key Biscayne’s history. 

The meeting was sparsely attended at the community center, days before Easter and amid Passover, but video of the meeting will be posted early this week online by the Village.

Officials outlined one aspect of the project: the complete overhaul of the stormwater drainage system. The plan is nearly 30% complete with an eye of using the neighborhood south of K-8 Center as a guinea pig.

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The consulting firm hired to create the blueprint for the new stormwater drainage system touched on the K-8 basin plan at the Village Council meeting two days earlier.

“The area is centrally located and is really kind of indicative of all of the challenges that the Village faces. It’s a great starting point,” Joe Webb, director of park planning for the infrastructure consulting firm AECOM, told the audience.

Webb explained a major piece in the K-8 basin plan is the makeover of Harbor Park on the west side of the island and how it will incorporate a critical pumping station into green space without ruining the aesthetic with a large piece of ugly equipment. 

“We would at least suggest to the Village to consider putting it inside of a building,” Webb said. “There’s challenges to that, but that really minimized that visual clutter.”

The public got to see three different proposals of how the Village might install the pumping station at the park, moving the location in various iterations along the back of the green space. Either way, the pumping station will have a big footprint, taking up about 1/10th of the park, planners said. 

“Much of this is almost invisible. It will be underground,” he said. 

What will be visible are a series of large pipes – painted light blue in the presentation Thursday night. There also will be three outfalls to Biscayne Bay, at a spot just north of Hurricane Harbor.

In this graphic provided by the Village of Key Biscayne, concepts for a pumping station at Harbor Park are shown, including possible buildings to house equipment. The pumping station is part of the initial drainage project near the K-8 school. (KBI via Village of Key Biscayne)

While nearly 30% of the plan has been completed, the final assessment report is scheduled to be presented to the Village Council by later this summer with construction starting in September 2024. The new system will use a series of pumps – both large and small – gravity and outflows.

Still unclear is how many additional pumping stations will be needed, where they will go, and how big they will be.“There’s going to be more than one large pump station, but I don’t know how many there are going to be. There’s going to be a number of smaller re-pump stations,”  said Roland Samimy, chief resilience and sustainability officer for the Village.

“That’s what is coming out of the Village-wide assessment.”

While villagers know how their streets and  property can flood with just one deluge, the island faces more existential threats.

Village Manager Steve Williamson said tidal flood predictions call for 10 inches of additional sea level rise by 2042 and 32 inches by 2072. The $250 million n program also calls for roadway improvements – such as incrementally raising them – burying electrical lines and shoreline protection.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” he said.
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See the PowerPoint presentation on overview of Resilient Infrastructure & Adaptation Program by clicking here.

See Update to Village-wide Alternative Drainage Analysis and 30% Design of the K-8 Basin by clicking here.

Read: A $100M Bet: Key Biscayne Adopts Sea Level Rise Targets by clicking here.

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A question arose during the meeting on whether old growth trees on swales were in danger but the officials ensured they would not be uprooted.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.