- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A new report on sea level rise indicates Maryland should be planning for a rise of as much as 2 feet by 2050.
The independent report, led by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and prepared by a panel of scientific experts, estimates the sea level could be 2.1 feet higher in 2050 along Maryland’s shorelines than it was in 2000 based on an assessment of the latest climate change science and federal guidelines. The panel was comprised of 21 sea level rise experts from Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to a UMCES press release.
“This reassessment narrows the probable range of sea level rise based on the latest science,” Donald Boesch, president of UMCES and chairman of the group of experts who assembled the report, said in the release. “It provides the State with sea level rise projections based on best scientific understanding to ensure that infrastructure is sited and designed in a manner that will avoid or minimize future loss or damage.”
Dave Brownlee, Calvert County’s principal environmental planner, said Wednesday the county has been preparing for sea level rise for quite some time and will continue to plan well into the future.
Last December, he said, the county adopted new flood plain maps with a 2-foot base flood elevation, meaning the lowest level of a unit has to be 2 feet above the elevation of the 100-year flood elevation, which varies depending on where the unit is located in the county and how close the unit is to the coast.
The standard mitigation for sea level rise is elevation, though certainly someone could decide to demolish the unit if he or she doesn’t want to deal with the issue, Brownlee said.
If projections are on track, he explained, the county will have to amend the 2-foot base flood elevation by 2050; otherwise, the 2-foot base flood elevation will be under water.
In Cove Point, where there are about 200 homes in the flood plain, Brownlee said, the county conducted a Flood Area Management Plan to determine the issues and possible mitigation solutions. He said the county plans to conduct a similar plan for Broomes Island next year.
In addition, both Cove Point and Broomes Island communities have been part of flood hazard mitigation workshops. During those workshops, the communities, in conjunction with the University of Maryland, looked at the level of the 100-year flood plain and how recent hurricanes in the region have impacted the communities. Brownlee said that also during those workshops, the communities and the university looked at how a 2-foot sea level rise could impact those areas.
Currently, the county is working on an application with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment for the county’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps that could result in various flood insurance cost savings for homeowners in the county’s flood plain. This is the first time in 25 years the maps have been updated “and confirm both increases and decreases in the 100-year flood elevations over this period of time,” according to the press release on the report.
FEMA recently finished a coastal study for Calvert County resulting in maps that indicate a high velocity zone, which takes wave height and wave action into account as well as sea level, along the shoreline of the county, Brownlee said. He explained that units in the zone require specialized regulations, such as stilts. The county is reviewing the coastal study maps from FEMA right now before going through the county’s map adoption process, Brownlee said.
According to the report, the experts’ best estimate for the amount of sea level rise in 2050 is 1.4 feet but is unlikely to be less than 0.9 feet or greater than 2.1 feet.
“Their best estimate for sea level rise by 2100,” the press release said, “is 3.7 feet.”
The estimates from the report were based on several sea level rise contributing factors, such as thermal expansion of ocean volume as a result of warming; the melting of glaciers and Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets; changing ocean dynamics, such as the slowing of the Gulf Stream; and vertical land movement.
Boesch said in the release, “While there is little we can do now to reduce the amount of sea-level rise by the middle of the century, steps taken over the next 30 years to control greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize global temperatures will largely determine how great the sea level rise challenge will be for coastal residents at the end of this century and beyond.”
The release states that according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, sea level rise impacts are already being seen in Maryland, citing the “documented loss of islands within the Chesapeake Bay.”
To view the report, go to www.umces.edu/sites/default/files/pdfs/SeaLevelRiseProjections.pdf. For more information about the county’s flood plain management, go to www.co.cal.md.us/index.aspx?nid=554.