Pinellas County Vulnerability Assessment

Nov 15, 2021 9:30 AM ET
Multimedia with summary

WSP USA is assisting in advancing an assessment of long-term vulnerabilities and development of climate adaptation strategies in response to future tidal flooding and storm surge for all of Pinellas County, Florida.

Identifying long-term investments

To enhance community resilience, the county aims to identify long-term capital investments that could be undertaken, and policy strategies that could be implemented, to mitigate or adapt to the environmental shifts associated with climate change. Project assumptions are based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s sea-level rise scenarios, which anticipate an increase between 2 and 8.5 feet by 2100, depending on the level of global greenhouse gas mitigation and the reaction of the oceans and ice sheets to warming.

Initially, WSP developed predicted future tidal flood mapping for the years 2040, 2070 and 2100, to provide Pinellas County with both short-term and long-term analysis of the county’s exposure to sea-level rise. The maps created for this project depict the extent of flooding at both the mean high water and higher flooding thresholds, including the areas inundated at only 1, 50 and 250 hours per year. We also assisted in the development of probabilistic future storm-surge maps using state-of the-art modeling that considers sea level rise and the projected effects of climate change on the frequency, intensities and tracks of tropical systems, and accounts for wave action. 

Developing asset database

Our team is working with Pinellas County and other stakeholders to develop a county-wide asset database, capturing the location and attribute information for critical potable water supply, wastewater management, stormwater management, transportation, natural gas and electrical infrastructure. Using the tidal flooding and storm surge inundation maps, we will be able to determine predicted flooding at these thousands of assets during any horizon-year/sea-level-rise scenario.

Our economist is developing a series of mathematical functions relating flood depth to damage costs for each general asset class. The costs include damage repair to each type of facility and socioeconomic costs to the surrounding communities. These costs will then be used to score the vulnerability of the asset providing a risk-based system-wide vulnerability assessment so the county can identify where best to initiate their adaptation efforts.

After the completion of the vulnerability analysis, WSP will use the Adaptation Decision-making Assessment Process (ADAP) to conduct facility-level adaptation assessments. ADAP, which WSP helped develop for the Federal Highway Administration, facilitates a scenarios-based approach to design and includes a detailed benefit-cost analysis of each alternative under each climate scenario. This allows us to examine in detail the risk at each specific asset for each sea level rise scenario and develop preliminary recommendations for adaptation options.