Fort Lauderdale adopts taller seawall standard

Seawall height raised to help stop flooding

FORT LAUDERDALE — If your seawall has eroded to the extent that you’re flooding out your neighbors, you’ll probably need to make some changes.

That’s because Fort Lauderdale is the latest city to legislate taller seawalls to help stall the effects of tidal flooding.

A new city ordinance passed March 23 now increases required seawall height from 3.9 feet to an elevation of 5 feet.

Most waterfront residents don’t have to worry about making expensive improvements, according to Nancy Gassman, assistant public works director, who spoke in a public service video put out by the city.

“I think the first question a property owner asks whenever we’re changing the ordinances is to say, “will I have to raise my seawall? And the answer to that question, generally speaking, is, probably not,” she said.

The law will impact people already building new seawalls, homeowners whose crumbling seawalls are damaged by over 50 percent; and sea walls low enough to cause extensive flooding to neighboring properties and roads.

Homeowners who receive citations will have one year to comply or can face fines of $100 a day.

The mandate was first imposed by Broward County in early 2020. The county law gives a 2050 deadline for the 5-foot minimum seawall and top-of-bank elevation.

The majority of Fort Lauderdale’s 200 miles of seawalls belong to private property owners. City code enforcement officers have been assessing current seawall conditions by patrolling the coastline by boat.

Flooding has long affected eastside neighborhoods where king tides can leave residents stranded at their doorsteps and drivers forced to plow through puddles that look more like ponds.

King tides result from the gravitational pull of the moon and sun at certain times of the year. Coupled with sea level rise, water seeps into places it ordinarily wouldn’t. Just 3 inches of sea level rise since 2000 has increased tidal flooding by 352 percent in Florida, according to, a group of scientists, engineers and public officials.

Many of the city’s aging sea walls date back to the 1960s when eastside homes were built. Since water is no friend to seawalls, their average lifespan is roughly 50 years. Replacement costs are estimated from $1,200 to $2,000 per linear foot.

The law is not without critics who have complained to city officials that homeowners unable to afford such a costly renovation will be forced to sell. So far no government funding for such improvements has been made available to property owners.

Broward County is also encouraging more natural ways to combat rising tides including the installation of riprap, which also helps weaken wakes, and living shoreline features such as plants, sand and rock that helps nurture native species.

Seawalls alone won’t solve the issue, according to a 2022 United Nations report, which suggests that people may ultimately need to avoid living on low-lying areas as effects from climate change reach a game-changing threshold.

Cities that have since adopted new sea wall requirements include Hillsboro Beach, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach, Wilton Manors, Oakland Park, Lauderdale by the Sea, Davie, Dania Beach, Hollywood and Hallandale Beach.

For more info, Fort Lauderdale has posted a video at