Wherever possible, the City of Cape Canaveral utilizes green infrastructure to increase its resilience against climate hazards such as coastal flooding and sea level rise. Being a barrier island municipality, the City regularly contends with powerful tropical cyclones and king tides. The City’s beach and its vegetated dune system are the first line of defense when it comes to mitigating the impacts of these hazards.
In order to maintain and continually strengthen its dune system, the City hosts an Annual Sea Oats Planting event. Sea oats are a perennial grass native to the US southeast, being found anywhere from Texas to Virginia. As they grow, the roots of the plants will burrow down several feet and form complex webs, which act to stabilize sand dunes and hold them in place. Above ground, the sea oats long wispy reeds serve to catch wind blow sand, often leading to a buildup of material at the base of the plants. Over time, this build up will cause the sand dunes to increase in height. This height buildup adds to the overall resilience of the beach by allowing it to be able to stop higher tides and storm surges from overtopping the dunes.
In January 2021, the City held its largest planting event ever, managing to plant 20,000 sea oats across nearly 2 miles of beach with the help of roughly 400 dedicated volunteers. This green infrastructure initiative is arguably one of the City’s greatest environmental outreach programs, routinely attracting eager volunteers. Years of education and excellent program results (i.e. one of the best vegetative dune systems in Brevard County) have reinforced the success of this program.
In 2019 the City of Cape Canaveral’s released its Vulnerability Assessment, completed after months of analysis and outreach by City Staff and the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council (ECFRPC), highlighting the threat of rising sea levels and coastal storms in our area. Funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) through their Florida Resilient Coastlines Program (FRCP) — a NOAA approved program — the report created by the ECFRPC examines the impacts of sea level rise and flooding specifically within Cape Canaveral. The report employs several models developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and NOAA to project possible sea level rise scenarios and the respective socio-economic impacts on the City. Timeframes evaluated as part of the report include 2040, 2070 and 2100.
According to the report findings the City can expect and should accordingly plan for 5.15 to 8.48 feet of sea level rise by 2100 with the possibility of increasing beach erosion and hurricane activity. In light of these issues, the planting of sea oats is one of the easiest and most economically feasible coastal protection projects presently available. Therefore, the City intends to keep this annual tradition in order to increase beach habitat, coastal resiliency and overall sustainability.