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5/12/2008

Virginia should plan for the coming sea-level rise

Virginia, USA
A big problem today and one that grows larger over time is that the whole low-lying coastal system along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline is going under water. From Old Point Comfort through the Back River drainage, up through Poquoson, across to Gloucester and Guinea Neck, and on to Mathews, Stingray Point and Windmill Point – all of this land is getting wetter and wetter. Flooding will increase in the coming decades. Hampton Roads is faced with at least a 2-foot relative sea-level rise over the next century. This increase will unfold gradually with each storm reaching higher and higher until, by 2106, the equivalent of that 2006 Columbus Day nor'easter would produce more flooding than they saw from Hurricane Isabel. This 2-foot rise is the most conservative estimate of what is headed their way, due to global warming that has already happened. Without arguing the source of the warming, without talking about "what ifs" of future greenhouse-gas emissions, they are stuck with this 2-foot relative sea-level rise. They will have to raise houses higher and higher after every one of the future storms. Roads leading to those houses will also have to be raised higher and higher to allow fire and police access. Utilities, storm-water and sewage systems, ground-water and septic systems – every piece of public infrastructure in those low-lying areas will also have to be fixed at taxpayer expense. Virginia is alone among mid-Atlantic states in not responding to the coming sea-level rise. Maryland and North Carolina have produced high-resolution, digital flood maps and are working on solutions. Most state governments along the East Coast have plans to address coastal flooding from the higher tides that are coming.

RELATED NEWS
CALIFORNIA - If left unchecked, the rising sea levels caused by global climate change could leave Stockton under water, California's Lt. Governor warned Thursday. "Yes, Delta water has come up six inches over the last century. And if you go 56 inches, we're in deep water right here." In addition to capricious flooding and spells of drought driven by climate change, he said California laws have to account for things such as levees and how water is stored in natural aquifers that supply drinking water. Making choices that arise from climate change, people often take a short-term approach, brushing aside solutions that set a positive course for years to come, he said. "I think that's really wrong. We need to think of the generations ahead."

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