Betsy Calvert, Charlotte Sun, June 16, 2019

If Southwest Florida governments form a climate change compact, Commissioner Bill Truex wants to be Charlotte County’s representative.

“We need to know the facts of what’s going on, on our coasts,” Truex told the Sunlast week.

Truex said he has lived and worked in West County near the Gulf of Mexico, long enough to see the real possibility of rising seas and its effect on society’s building blocks, like fresh water supplies.

Back in April, development experts from Charlotte County joined about 20 other government officials from as far south as Marco Island for a discussion on how to adapt to climate change. The gathering was at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, and the mediator was a geologist and marine scientist, Prof. Michael Savarese.

Their purpose was to plan for a regional resiliency compact like one formed last year by governments around Tampa Bay. Perhaps the most famous climate change compact was formed 10 years ago on Florida’s densely populated east coast. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact was getting underway at the same time as Miami’s perpetual flooding was hitting the news. The message was a real-time demonstration of how sea level rise threatened some of the world’s most valuable real estate.

Southwest Florida is not Southeast Florida, however. The southwest coast has its own problems and advantages, Savarese told the Sun recently.

“Our problems are going to be different than their problems,” he said.

For example, he said, Southwest Florida’s coast has less elevation protecting it than Miami. Emergency Management staff in Charlotte County know that Southwest Florida’s coast rises gradually rather than abruptly like the Southeastern coast. Southwest Florida’s coast also has less sand delivered to it by rivers than Southeast Florida, Savarese said. But the southwest has more natural areas left, such as mangrove swamps, to absorb the impact of storms, Savarese said. And the waves of the Gulf of Mexico are on average smaller and less damaging than the Atlantic Ocean.

At least the southwest coast does not face a double whammy like the Florida Panhandle. The Panhandle coast is naturally sinking while seas are rising, Savarese said.

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