Action News Jax Investigates: Flood-prone Shipyards and stadium development could leave taxpayers drowning in costs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax investigates how well the proposed Shipyards development could handle downtown flooding.

Action News Jax first reported last week, the Jaguars proposed Phase 1 of a $441 million project that will include a new practice facility, a 5-star hotel and a marina at a cost of at least $143 million in taxpayer money to subsidize it.

Action News Jax’s Ben Becker dug into two flooding studies and the term sheet between the team and the city and it says nothing about how much it will cost to make sure the Shipyards or any other development around the stadium is flood resilient.

Hurricane Irma caused record-setting flooding in downtown Jacksonville in 2017.

According to the National Weather Service, storm surge flooding exceeded a record set during Hurricane Dora in 1965 by at least 1 foot.

A river gauge downtown measured 3 feet above flood stage.

The term sheet allows the Jaguars to use something called “stormwater credits” but it doesn’t define a price tag on maintenance or infrastructure costs for the city.

Two studies have been conducted in the past year about downtime flooding, including the area around the Shipyards and stadium.

One study commissioned by the Jaguars concluded the stadium and Shipyards is a “coastal high hazard area” needs “state of the art systems” plus the bulkheads “warrant replacement” and that “flood insurance rate maps adopted by the COJ do not adequately represent an accurate vulnerability to major flood events.”

Separately, a special City Council committee concluded in a second study “Jacksonville (is) one of the most vulnerable in the U.S. to hurricanes, storm surge, nuisance flooding and the long-range threat of sea-level rise.”

Action News Jax pressed Mayor Lenny Curry about the Shipyards project and flooding.

“They know what they’re doing,” Curry said of the Jaguars. “They and anyone in city investing that money will mitigate that risk.”

Mitigation is defined as less severe, not eliminating.

Becker reached out to the Jaguars for comment regarding flooding downtown issues and did not receive a response.

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