Congressional roundtable on water resource development

Written by: Emma Odenweller

Dr. Obeysekera participating in roundtable discussion

On Oct. 19, Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera, director of the Institute of Water and Environment’s Sea Level Solutions Center, participated as a panelist in a roundtable discussion on “America’s Water Resources Infrastructure: Concepts for the Next Water Resources Development Act” in Islamorada, Fla. 

Congresswomen Grace F. Napolitano (California) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (Florida) oversaw the roundtable. Other participants included:

  • Deb Gillis (Mayor of Islamorada)
  • Jose Javier Rodriguez (State Senator for Florida’s 37th District)
  • Noah Valenstein (Secretary, Florida Department of Environmental Protection)
  • Michael Rubin (Vice President, Governmental Affairs Florida Ports Council)
  • Mary Barley (Founding Director, Everglades Foundation)
  • Cheryl Meads (Governing Board Member, South Florida Water Management District)

The goal of this discussion was to gain an understanding of the challenges Florida communities may face when rebuilding after natural disasters, as well as determine solutions to water infrastructure issues around the country.

Congressional Roundtable Discussion participants

“Resiliency needs have a system focus. [They] think beyond design life and develop water infrastructure plans, which will remain functioning after a major hazard,” Dr. Obeysekera said.

According to the roundtable participants, Central and South Florida Flood Control System needs to be re-evaluated. Regional improvements may be made to the infrastructure to address future conditions resulting from climate change and sea level rise. Obeysekera emphasized the importance of Everglades Restoration and its multitude of benefits, including adaptation to climate change, especially concerning sea level rise.

As these issues are addressed in the coming years, many hope that new projects will be increasingly resilient to climate change-driven events and damages. This roundtable proved that new and improved infrastructure could no longer be built with historical climatic patterns in mind; instead, planners must continue to adapt to our changing world.