New study shows Hillsborough River’s vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise

house on river with boat and dockJune 2021 – Hillsborough County commissioned USF’s Florida Center for Community Design and Research, with project management provided by the Planning Commission, to conduct a comprehensive Community Vulnerability Study (CVS). The purpose of the study is to address Senate Bill 1094 (2015) “Peril of Flood Act” and identify long-range planning options for the County’s coastal and low-lying community areas in preparation for future flooding and potential sea-level rise. The CVS will aid the County with meeting local, state, and federal planning requirements for the threat of flooding and longitudinal sea level rise with a focus on understanding the consequences, impacts, strategies, and implementation plans needed to not only meet regulatory requirements but to bolster preparations to save life and property in future times of crisis.

The development of recommendations for new comprehensive plan policy to meet or exceed the requirements associated with the Peril of Flood Act was a priority task for the project. The bill requires all coastal municipalities to address six goals related to flooding, including reducing coastal flooding risks, removal of coastal properties from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood zones, site development techniques and best practices for flood mitigation, and construction and coastal development. The CVS developed a comprehensive, risk-based assessment that identifies vulnerabilities in Hillsborough County for flood and sea-level rise scenarios. Many of these vulnerabilities were mapped to show their location and the extent of the risk.  The lower portion of the Hillsborough River was shown to be particularly at risk of sea level rise.  Adjacent land to the lower river would see the effects of sea level rise first. Many of the properties first at risk are public parks, but some older private properties built at low elevation are also vulnerable.

The project recommends relevant adaptation strategies and emergency and disaster management risk mitigation plans to reduce the risk of loss of life and property in the event of varying levels of flooding and storm water intrusion.

View the Hillsborough County Community Vulnerability Study.

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