Rising sea levels now on Pinellas County's radar
Addressing rising sea levels is not usually on the to-do list of municipal governments, but Pinellas is beginning to get a little worried.
At a meeting on Tuesday, county officials said they had started holding informal discussions about climate change. The group is months, if not years, away from presenting the County Commission with a plan, but they are beginning to think about how a county defined by its beaches will have to adapt to the likelihood of increasingly severe weather.
"We think if we don't begin to plan well in this area, we're going to regret it," said Larry Arrington, the county's director of strategic planning and initiatives.
Arrington said the group has reached out to researchers at the University of Florida and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to find out how vulnerable Pinellas could be to climate change. From there, officials would look at how they need to adapt their long-term plans for infrastructure and storm water.
Imagining a deluge of bad press about flooded roads and hotels floating out to sea, some commissioners were not in love with the idea.
"We want to still make sure that we create jobs and we have economic development," said Commissioner Karen Seel. "If you're putting the word out there that the sky is falling down and we're going to sink into the ocean, it has an impact on our tourists and it has an impact on our economy.
"Come down to Pinellas County!" joked Commissioner John Morroni. "But we might not be here for a while!"