MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The head of the Environmental Protection Agency was in South Florida Thursday to talk about climate change.

Administrator Gina McCarthy joined Democratic U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Sheldon Whitehouse in a bayfront neighborhood that in recent years frequently was flooded by seasonal high tides, with water rising up through aging infrastructure to swamp streets and businesses even if it wasn’t raining.

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Miami Beach expects to spend up to $400 million over five years to add about 60 new storm water pumps across the city to improve drainage and reduce the flooding. The extreme high tides were expected to peak Thursday, but some of the new pumps already are operational and the streets were dry around the park where McCarthy and the senators joined students recording salinity levels.

“How are we going to pump our way out of this challenge if we don’t start now to take action to mitigate the release of carbon pollution emissions, which is fueling this changing climate? We are not going to be able to make this money worthwhile and protect us in the long run if we don’t take the bold action they’ve taken here to actually adapt and become resilient to protect the communities in the short term,” McCarthy said.

The federal government is proposing that Florida cut its carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 38 percent by the year 2030, as part of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants nationwide by nearly a third over the next 15 years.

The low-lying Miami area is not unique in its vulnerability to the effects of climate change or in its desire to make adaptations now, McCarthy said.

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Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, agreed, noting that 10 inches of sea level rise has been documented at the naval station in Newport since the 1930s.

“We have the same problem that Florida has,” he said. “That 10 inches isn’t going away.”

Earlier Thursday in Doral, McCarthy touted her agency’s resources for fighting pollution and promoting public health an American Bar Association conference on environmental law.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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