- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Although a new report suggests the sea level might rise as much as 2 feet by 2050, the change might not have an effect on Charles County.
New research from a University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science study that was released last month indicates that the water could rise 2 feet along Maryland’s shoreline by that time, and nearly 4 feet within a century from now.
The report, which said sea level rise has occurred more quickly in the mid-Atlantic region than anywhere else along the Atlantic coast, indicates that the average estimate for sea level rise by 2050 is 1.4 feet. The research team concluded, however, that the rise will not likely be less than 0.9 feet or more than 2.1 feet. The rise, according to the report, can be attributed to different factors, including glacial melting in Greenland and Antarctica as the result of global warming, the slowing flow of the Gulf Stream and expanding ocean volume, and other factors.
Although this rise will have significant effects on homes in St. Mary’s and Calvert counties, Charles County Planning and Growth Management Chief of Codes, Permits and Inspections Frank Ward said he anticipates a “limited change” for coastal citizens in the county.
“We’re not seeing any indications yet of sea level rise affecting us, but we need to keep an eye on trends and anticipate there may be some change in shoreline condition,” Ward said. “We’re somewhat fortunate in that we’re not right on the Chesapeake Bay. A lot of our coastal areas are rivers.”
Charles County has 305 miles of shoreline, according to data from the Maryland Geological Survey.
Despite the shoreline being along rivers, Ward said the county is taking steps to ensure that homes built in the future are less susceptible to damage caused by coastal flooding. The areas of the county, particularly the southeastern region, that lie lower are the ones more susceptible to being affected, Ward said. The county also tries to direct development away from those areas, Ward added.
The changes the county is making to adapt are in line with changes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has recommended for all states that encompass the Chesapeake watershed, Ward said.
In July, for the first time since 1985, the county commissioners updated the county’s flood plain ordinance in response to new FEMA flood insurance maps set to take effect Sept. 4.
“As part of the ordinance, new structures must be at least 2 feet above flood elevation. The prior ordinance only required 1 foot,” Ward said. “There’s also a requirement in the new ordinance for new electric or mechanical equipment to be 3 feet above.”
Altogether, Ward said, the county’s coastal homes have not been affected by shoreline erosion in a serious way.
Although County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D), a resident of coastal development Swan Point, said he has not noted any changes on his land caused by erosion or higher tides, he disagreed with Ward’s assertion that there would be a limited effect on the county.
“Calling the Potomac River a river is really kind of a misnomer,” Robinson said. “It’s tidal, and it feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. I think that we need to be very aware of what the scientists are saying.”
Robinson noted that the unusually severe storms seen worldwide over the last decade have been indicative of a potentially massive change to come. He also noted that updating the maps Ward mentioned was a “very important first step” when it comes to protecting the county.
“We live in a state where the state government is very aware, as seen with [Gov. Martin] O’Malley’s recent climate change summit,” Robinson said. “We’re very fortunate. We’re looking forward to prepare for what may or may not occur.”
A copy of the report can be found at www.umces.edu/sites/default/files/pdfs/SeaLevelRiseProjections.pdf.