Report Urges State and Local Building Codes To Plan For 2-foot Sea Rise by 2050

A June 26 Baltimore Sun B’More Green blog post announces the pending release of a report from 21 scientists throughout the mid-Atlantic region urging Maryland to plan for a 2 feet rise in the state’s shoreline by 2050, potentially rising to 6 feet by the end of the century.  The report also finds that sea level is rising faster than previously forecast.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy’s devastating floods last year along New  Jersey and New York’s coast, [Governor Martin] O’Malley asked for an update of sea-level rise  projections in Maryland to help state agencies decide where and how to construct  state buildings, especially in low-lying coastal areas. He issued an executive  order in December directing that all new and rebuilt facilities be planned and  constructed to avoid or minimize flood damage.

“It doesn’t need a lot of rocket science,” said Donald Boesch, president of  the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, who chaired the  group’s deliberations. “We’ve got tide gauges that show us sea level is  increasing. This is a real phenomenon. We should take it seriously and have to  plan for it.”  …

The report acknowledges that Chesapeake Bay and ocean waters may rise by only  about a foot by 2050, but its authors said worst-case planning for a 2-foot rise  in waters is warranted to account for the risks of storm-driven flooding.  …

In some particularly vulnerable areas, Boesch said, it may take more to  flood-proof a building or protect water, sewer and other public facilities from  encroaching waters.

“We have to decide whether the infrastructure is going to be maintained, or  have assistance programs to relocate,” he said. “We already have roads that are  periodically underwater, so at some point, what do you do? Elevate the roads,  allow increased flooding or abandon?”

The post also notes that many local jurisdictions are reviewing newly issued Federal Emergency Management Agency flood insurance rate maps but that some jurisdictions such as Crisfield, have gone ahead and adopted new building code requirements in anticipation of future sea level rise.

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