Friday, February 5, 2010

An island town plots the future with rising seas in mind

Mike Secombe in the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette: There’s been a great deal of focus lately on the local effects of the rush by federal and state authorities to build big wind farms near the Vineyard to ameliorate climate change, but very little focus on the local effects of climate change itself.

Except in Oak Bluffs, where there is quiet work underway to prepare for the worst, including sea level rise that is expected to erase beachfront property as it is now known, and the potentially ruinous effects of extreme storms caused by climate change. And it’s all backed by a state grant.

But first consider for a minute what a three-foot rise in sea level would mean to the Vineyard. Much of downtown Vineyard Haven and Edgartown would be inundated. Likewise the Crystal Lake and Farm Pond areas of Oak Bluffs. Most of Lobsterville would be under water, along with a lot of land on the flat shores of the Great Ponds. Hines Point would be an island and the new drawbridge cut off. State Beach would be largely gone, as would the beachfront at Quansoo and elsewhere.

A three-foot rise in sea level over the next century is now the general consensus among climate scientists, but some predict much more. … Experts say the lead times on climate change mean actions must be taken soon to limit consequences decades hence. And some effects of climate change, like extreme weather, are expected to be manifest much sooner….

Locator map of Oak Bluffs by Justin H. Petrosek, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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