Report Warns Annapolis, Harriet Tubman Museum Threatened By Sea Level Rise

A May 20 Baltimore Sun B’More Green blog post announced the findings of a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists that highlights the threat of projected sea-level rise to historic sites nationwide.  The report includes three historic sites from Maryland: (1) downtown Annapolis; (2) the United States Naval Academy; and (3) the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument.  Several other key historic sites included in the report were the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York, historic Jamestown in Virginia, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In 2013, President Barack Obama designated 25,000 acres of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge as well as some private land in Dorchester a national monument honoring Harriet Tubman for her role in leading slaves to freedom.  …

The water level in the largely undeveloped area has risen more than 10 inches in the past 70 years, the report said, and it’s projected to increase up to 15 inches more by 2050.  …

At the Naval Academy in Annapolis, [Tropical Storm] Isabel caused more than $120 million in damage with water rising 61/2 feet above average, the report said. The academy has taken steps to limit damage from future flooding, it noted.

Downtown Annapolis poses a different challenge, as most of the historic properties there are privately owned, yet they anchor the capital’s economy.  …

As much damage as flooding can do, [Director of Historic Preservation for the City of Annapolis Lisa] Craig said, “we’re not looking at building a sea wall.” Obstacles include cost, logistics and the reluctance of many to interfere with the downtown’s “million-dollar view” of the water, she said. Nor is it practical to look at elevating such old structures.

Instead, Craig said the city is working with federal and state officials to develop what she called a “tool kit” of steps historic property owners can take to keep water out, or at least limit the damage if they can’t stay dry.

From a May 20 Maryland Department of Planning press release concerning the report:

“The rich heritage of Maryland’s coastal areas makes it impossible for us to ignore threats such as sea-level rise,” said Maryland Historical Trust Director Rodney Little. “Planning is essential for the long-term protection of places like Annapolis and the landscapes associated with Harriet Tubman, which are critical to our identity, our economy and our culture.”

Recognizing the threat to Annapolis, the Maryland Historical Trust has partnered with city officials and a team of other state agencies and nonprofit organizations on a project to build resilience to sea-level rise. The project seeks to document historic resources, analyze their vulnerability to sea-level rise, and prioritize places and structures for intervention. The project will include outreach to the city’s residents, workers and tourists to understand how the public values the areas at risk, including the historic downtown and Eastport.

National Landmarks At Risk Report (Executive Summary)

National Landmarks at Risk Report (Full Report)