Sea level rise affecting the infrastructure, psychology of key mid-Atlantic towns

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Infrastructure protectionSea level rise affecting the infrastructure, psychology of key mid-Atlantic towns

Published 11 September 2014

Scientific research and flooding trends have led many to speculate that the Atlantic coast of the United States is already sinking. Mid-Atlantic towns on the coast stretching from Virginia to South Carolina have been experiencing increased flooding and receiving reports and satellite findings from government agencies, leading many of those living on the mid-Atlantic coast to wonder whether their hometowns are doomed.

Scientific research and flooding trends have led many to speculate that the Atlantic coast of the United States is already sinking.

As theMorning Call reports, mid-Atlantic towns on the coast stretching from Virginia to South Carolina have been experiencing increased flooding and receiving reports from government services such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and satellite findings from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It is little wonder that many of those living on the mid-Atlantic coast are wondering whether their hometowns are doomed.

In places such as Chincoteague, Virginia, the beach has been disappearing at an average rate of 10 to 22 feet a year. In Norfolk, Virginia, a major shipping center, flooding has grown more frequent and effected the suburbs and urban areas that house those who work in the industry.

“It breaks my heart to think about,” said Grayson Chesser, whose family has lived in the area for nearly four centuries. “You’ve got to deal with the fact that it’s happening,” he said, “And what are you going to do with those of us on the edge?”

That question is one that the U.S. government has to consider. The 2014 National Climate Assessment reported that tidal waters rose an average of eight inches worldwide in the past 100 years, due mainly to glacial melt from rising sea temperatures — leading to increased flooding.

Now, infrastructure constructed before the growing realization about the consequences of sea level rise is often at the greatest risk.

In Charleston, South Carolina, six-lane highways have flooded from Atlantic storm systems, impacting the ability for hospitals and police stations to work properly. In Annapolis, Maryland, the historic colonial district flooded this past spring due to unusual rain storms, impacting local businesses and collegiate infrastructure.

Government response has been slow, but it is now increasing its pace. In 2010, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers began a $4.1 million project to increase flood protection in downtown Washington, D.C. The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, has listed sea level rise along the U.S. coastlines as its top priority.

Despite the growing involvement of the U.S. government, some local residents say the government as is too slow.

“There’s going to be nothing left for us to protect,” said Country Supervisor Thornton of Chincoteague, referencing the lack of beach reconstruction and skimpy zoning laws that further damage the naturally protective elements of the environment.

Since the National Climate Protection Act was passed in 1978, $47 billion dollars have been spent on climate change research, but no laws have been passed that deal directly with the effects of rising sea levels.

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