FORT LAUDERDALE FLOODING: The grant follows some of the worst flooding in the history of Broward County in April 2023. STOCK PHOTO

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Following some of the worst flooding in the history of Broward County in April 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a record $120 million grant to the City of Fort Lauderdale to upgrade its stormwater system.

The grant is part of the federal agency’s efforts to help cities across the country combat climate change, as the threat of sea level rise mostly impacts coastal communities in the next 20 to 30 years.

The federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act will finance projects to improve stormwater management and bolster climate resilience in Fort Lauderdale’s most flood-prone areas.

The area experienced a record 25 inches of rainwater that turned streets into lakes, with people using canoes to get around their neighborhoods as water spilled into homes destroying personal belongings.

The flooding was so acute that Gov. Ron DeSantis DeSantis declared a state of emergency as the torrential downpours impacted roadways, airports, hospitals, school and other critical infrastructure throughout Broward County for several days.

It took days for residents, emergency crews and volunteers to mop up the damage estimated at more than $100 million.

Radhika Fox, EPA assistant administrator, said they needed some relief after some residents were displaced when the flooding reached into their homes causing a safety issue.

“With this investment, Fort Lauderdale will strengthen its climate resilience, develop innovative green infrastructure projects and upgrade traditional stormwater systems to reduce flood risk for local residents and businesses,” said Fox.

“Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic $50 billion investment in America through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the availability of innovative financing options like WIFIA, EPA continues to provide funding so communities across the country can address urgent water infrastructure concerns.”

The $120 million funding will enhance Fort Lauderdale’s Neighborhood Stormwater Improvements Project which focuses on climate resilience, upgrading stormwater infrastructure and reducing water pollution.

The project includes improving water quality in Intracoastal Waterway by replacing aging, corroding pipelines that leak heavy metals and contaminants.

Fort Lauderdale will save about $26 million with the grant and investing in local water infrastructure will create 200 jobs.

“We are tremendously grateful to the EPA for granting our city this generous loan as we recover from April’s historic flooding and prepare for a resilient future,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.

“Neighborhoods that are hardest hit by storms including River Oaks, Dorsey-Riverbend, Durrs, Progresso Village, Victoria Park, Melrose Manors, and Southeast Isles will greatly benefit from the stormwater improvements these funds will finance.”

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Warren Sturman’s district includes Edgewood and River Oaks. “I was out there with my constituents who were some of the hardest hit during April’s historic floods, and it was heartbreaking to see the devastation,” said Sturman. “Being able to share this wonderful news with my district means so much to me as we continue to recover together.”

Vice Mayor Pam Beasley-Pittman said 15 communities were hit hard during the historic floods and the grant will make the city more resilient.

“No community is left behind, including my district," said BeasleyPittman. “I am grateful as this much-needed support will help us build a stronger and more resilient community for future generations.”

Commissioner Steven Glassman said the city must address the threat of sea level rise.

“A large portion of my district is waterfront with some locations just a short walk from the ocean,” said Glassman. “As sea level rises, we are grateful for the support from our federal partners in fortifying our beautiful City and will continue to work with the EPA to keep our neighbors safe and resilient.”

Democratic U.S. Congresswoman, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, whose district was also devastated by the massive flooding, applauded the agency’s grant to help Fort Lauderdale fight climate change.

"The historic flooding that hit the heart of District 20 in April underscored the importance of climate resilience," she said.