Key Biscayne’s manager says by picking less ambitious targets and by using good financial controls, the cost of fighting sea level rise with a trio of mammoth projects — street flooding, burying power lines, and coastal protection — can come in under $350 million to be spent over the next 15 years.
“I think we all have to be ready for this to be somewhere between $250 and $350 [million]. But that’s the big picture,” said Village Manager Steve Williamson Friday on the Anti-Social podcast. “I’m moving towards that $250 ,” he said.
Nov. 8th, Williamson is hosting a town hall with top engineers from the project to address public questions about the projects, which are under scrutiny after the price of the flood control project alone came in at $310 million in August.
The question for the Village is how much water is tolerable on streets, and for how long, as climate change makes the job of removing rainfall harder with each passing year. That decision, which likely will mean a pullback from targets unanimously adopted 20 months ago, is set for Nov 14.
Williamson laid out a timetable that would require the Village Council to make a final decision at the January, 2024 council meeting to authorize a go-ahead for the first phase of the Big Dig, the often-flooded section of streets near the K-8 school.
The goal would be to put shovels in the ground by mid-2025, following up to six months of what Williamson said would be a “very robust and detailed procurement process,” needed because the scale of the project eclipses anything the Village has ever done.
“This is not something that you want to do off the cuff,” Wiliamson said.
Zone 1, the K-8 center, has a projected cost of $35 million for stormwater and $3 million for power line, telephone, and cable undergrounding according to AECOM, the Village’s consultant. But Williamson said as the plan gets further refined, he’s expecting estimates to come down — especially the 35% contingency, which is very high because modeling and planning is not yet complete. Williamson did not provide a cost component for coastal protection for Zone 1.
“My expectation is, that come January, that number will be closer to reality.”
While cost savings can be found by reducing the flooding targets to a degree, Williamson was careful to note that labor and materials costs typically don’t change much even with a less aggressive water pumping capability. What can reduce costs, he said, is buying and installing smaller pumps and then possibly replacing them later.
“Would you like to have dry roads?,” William said of a survey sent to Village residents. “You’re always going to get ‘yes.’ But now, when you put a price tag on it, we’re coming to the middle.”