Sea Level Rise Adaptation
Wetlands Watch was one of the first nonprofit environmental groups to link sea level rise and wetlands loss...and to try to do something about it. We are the only
environmental nonprofit in the country working on sea level rise adaptation at the grassroots, seeking to help shoreline communities deal with sea level rise.
- We consulted with the Center for Coastal Resources Management
(CCRM) and estimated that Virginia stood to lose between 50 and 80% of its tidal wetlands due to sea level rise.
- Wetlands Watch wrote to Tim Kaine
, Virginia's governor at the time, asking him to take action. As a result, Wetlands Watch was asked to join the Virginia Commission on Climate Change
- Virginia Commission on Climate Change issued a report in 200
8, containing a "road map" for Virginia to deal with Climate Change and sea level rise
None of the adaptation recommendations were implemented. Taking the initiative, Wetlands Watch has been working with local governments throughout eastern Virginia's tidal tributaries to help them get ready for sea level rise by keeping the tidal shoreline open and resilient - to allow the tidal wetlands to "migrate" uphill. We are working to highlight a range of issues associated with shoreline development -inundation, insurance cost and availability, threats to critical infrastructure and economic investments - in order to make the case for coastal resiliency.
We have facilitated a number of local government efforts on adaptation, but the real hard work was done by the government staff and citizens of these localities who have made pioneering steps to start planning for sea level rise - in Mathews County
(comprehensive plan), Gloucester County
(Floodplain Management Plan 6mb .pdf), Poquoson
(Hazard Mitigation Plan - 3.5 mb.pdf), Virginia Beach
(comprehensive plan), Hampton
(Waterways Management Plan), Portsmout
h (Floodplain Management Plan, and Norfolk (Inundation Planning - underway).
- Wetlands Watch was asked to testify before a Congressional Committee
on the status of Virginia's efforts to deal with sea level rise and climate change. Our conclusion: "The failure by state and federal governments to develop climate change adaptation strategies leaves individuals, companies, and local governments to stumble blind and alone onto an increasingly dangerous terrain."
- Wetlands Watch developed a "toolkit" of approaches that Virginia's local governments can use to adapt to sea level rise today, based on our experience working with local governments on adaptation. We wrote up an initial version of our work in a monograph that was published as part of the American Society of Civil Engineering's May 2010 Workshop, "Sea Level Rise and Coastal Infrastructure"
. Later in 2010, we partnered with the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association with a half-day workshop to test and perfect the toolkit.
In 2010, we hired our first employee to help with the increasing demand for our sea level rise expertise. The main focus was a partnership with the University of Virginia, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the City of Virginia Beach, and Old Dominion University to hold "listening sessions"
on sea level rise. For the first time in Virginia, an open public dialogue was held to hear from ordinary citizens affected by sea level rise.
Wetlands Watch began systematically objecting to wetlands permit
s that do not take sea level rise into account.
We have highlighted the issues of development along the shoreline in numerous media outlets: the New York Times New York Times
, nationally syndicated radio shows ( "On Point") national television ("Need to Know)
, as well as regional Virginia radio
, and television coverage
In late 2010, we formalized our partnership with Old Dominion University in Norfolk with helping organize a major forum
at which the Oceanographer of the Navy (and head of the Navy's Task Force Climate Change), Admiral David Titley spoke.
- Growing Recognition of our work - published article in Watershed Science Bulletin
, numerous speaking invitations, continuing work with local governments. American Society of Civil Engineers published a monograph
in which we describe our "toolkit" for local government adaptation. We participated in an expert group to help the state of Delaware
deal with sea level rise threats to their coastal impondments for waterfowl. We continued our direct intervention in proposed shoreline developments that make no sense in the face of sea level rise - most notably a development proposal in Northumberland County
- More "listening sessions" on sea level rise conducted with Virginia Sea Grant Support - in Virginia Beach, Eastern Shore
, and Middle Peninsula. Attended Tea Party meetings
where climate skeptics contend sea level rise adaptation is part of an international conspiracy. Reconstructed the Virginia Climate Change Commission website
on our server, after the State of Virginia removed it from their site.
With support from the Virginia Environmental Endowment, we have started a program of work with the private sector to understand what sea level rise adaptation measures are taking place there. A special effort has emerged looking at the underwriting practices of private insurers along the shoreline, with a report due out in early 2013. Hired our third staffer to help deal with the issue of sea level rise adaptation in Virginia.