Chesapeake Bay Shore Dwellers Face Rising Sea ~

Global climate science is politically controversial. But one of the consequences of global climate change — rising sea levels — is already being felt. For the low-lying beach communities around Chesapeake Bay, the challenge of adapting to the ocean’s encroachment is a tough one, writes Rona Kobell in the Chesapeake Bay Journal (“ Sea level along Chesapeake rising faster than efforts to mitigate it”). How far sea levels will rise worldwide, and how fast, is a matter of speculation and debate, Kobell notes. But in the flat, gently sloping shorefronts around the Chesapeake basin, any rise at all tends to have noticeable results — and land subsidence and erosion are compounding the effects. “The flooding is happening faster than many ever imagined, and every solution to fix it is expensive,” Kobell writes. “Plus, the problem is going to get worse over the next several decades, as it becomes clear that none of today's fixes will be permanent.” The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., has already built a brick seawall to protect its bayfront campus from storm surge and waves. (The Pentagon takes sea level rise as a given, by the way: see, for example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers circular, “ Sea-Level Change Considerations for Civil Works Programs,” which sets a policy of including future sea-level rise and coastal flooding into account when designing public works projects.) Local governments are studying the problem, but any response is limited by funding, by politics, and by competition from other, more pressing short-term priorities. "This isn't at the top of everyone's list at this point," Frank Biba, chief of environmental programs in the city's Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs, told Kobell. "We're prepared to do something about it, but we don't know what, and we can't tell you when." For private citizens, protecting their own property is a puzzling challenge. Accountant James Strickland, whose office sits near the water in Norfolk, Va., suffered $250,000 worth of damage from a 2009 nor’easter, reports Kobell. Strickland’s solution — a makeshift flood-protection wall constructed of metal stakes and fabric flaps that he and his staff can erect around the building when flood threatens — protected his office against a May rainstorm, but did allow some flood damage when strained by the combined assault of tropical storms Irene and Lee ( click link to view image). Said Strickland: “People are adapting. But there’s nobody with an overall plan.”