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Annapolis is at risk as sea levels rise: What Do You Think?

May 19, 2016 01:34PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Gary Jobson

The year is 2003 and I am laying in a hospital bed in San Francisco with the television tuned into the news. I sit upright when I see images of downtown Annapolis underwater. In September of that year, Hurricane Isabel caused major flooding on Chesapeake Bay, and Annapolis was particularly hard hit. That horrifying event was a stark harbinger of what is coming. The sea level is rising due to climate change and global warming. This trend will have a devastating effect on our town.

While there are people who describe climate change as a hoax, the evidence of frequent flooding, severe storms, and rising temperatures clearly shows that our planet, and town, are at risk. Oceanographer, John Englander, recently published the book High Tide on Main Street, which argues that our shorelines will vanish, real estate values will plummet, and intense storms will wreak havoc. This past January, Englander presented his case at a lecture at St. John’s College. He made an impassioned plea that we should be taking action now.

Every month, the roads around City Dock are flooded by high tides. The situation is getting worse. The New York Times reported (Feb. 23, 2016) that Annapolis experienced 32 days of flooding between 1955 and 1964. More recently, between 2005 and 2014, the number of flood days in Annapolis had risen to 394 days. Annapolis is not alone. Every coastal community is at risk. The big question is what can be done to minimize the effects of climate change and rising sea levels?

Lisa Craig, who heads the Historic Preservation department for the City of Annapolis, says that plans are being developed to deal with the impending problem. “Annapolis is at the forefront of local planning, and has been active in planning for this reality for the past three years. We are currently planning for a 30-year horizon and a three-foot rise projection. Our key funding and policy partners include: the Maryland Deptartment of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of Planning and Historical Trust, FEMA, National Trust for Historical Preservation, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and the Urban Land Institute.” Craig also reports that Englander is involved with the City’s Core Steering Committee called, “Weather It Together.”

In February I spoke with one of America’s most respected scientists, Sylvia Earle, about the problem. She was Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is an explorer-in-residence with National Geographic. She told me, “We have never had a better time in history to craft a future for ourselves. We have to apply the knowledge we have to improve the future of our planet. The next 10 years will determine the next 10,000 years for what we do, or fail to do. The evidence of climate change is everywhere. We have a chance to make good decisions that will secure our future.”

Englander discussed several obvious solutions including construction of a berm around waterfront areas, requiring new buildings to be higher off the ground, and building away from the current shoreline. Flooding causes lasting problems. For example, salt water contaminates soil, erosion puts garbage and tainted earth into the watershed, and structures, like docks, roads, buildings, and bulkheads, are ruined. The costs are staggering. Early planning and prevention will be far cheaper than waiting too long.

Studying the issue and following through on its recommendations must be a priority of the City’s task force. Funding from the City, County, State, and Federal governments should be aggressively pursued to pay for the recommended plan of action. The effects of flooding are equally harsh on inland structures, as well. The harsh reality is evident. Let’s all be supportive, before it is too late.

Is the City of Annapolis doing enough to mitigate flooding and dirty water?

Is global warming cause for rising sea levels?

Do you care?

What do you think and why?

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