Monday, March 8, 2010

Group urges Virginia localities to plan for rising sea levels

Dave Forster in (Virginia): As a regional planner, John Carlock knows getting each Hampton Roads community to agree is rarely, if ever, simple. His next task could be even harder: Convince 16 cities and counties to work together to combat rising sea levels. Funding difficulties aside, the issue unavoidably involves talk of climate change, a topic that ignites its share of debate.

"There are those in leadership positions that have their doubts on some of this stuff," said Carlock, deputy executive director of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. "And obviously it impacts certain communities a lot sooner than others."

The regional planning commission has identified rising sea levels as a critical issue to tackle with its member localities in the next year. Tonight, Portsmouth's City Council will be the first in South Hampton Roads to see the group's presentation. Hampton officials saw it last month.

The matter isn't political for Stan D. Clark, a Republican and a member of Isle of Wight County's board of supervisors who serves on the planning district commission. A rise in sea level is a factual event that localities here are obligated to prepare for, he said. "I think there is climate change. Whether it's naturally occurring or man-made, who knows," he said. "But it's a fact that we have to deal with, and I applaud those efforts."

Some area residents have reported that sea levels have risen locally by about 3.5 inches in the past 20 years, Carlock said. According to the 2008 Governor's Commission on Climate Change, levels will rise 2.3 feet to 5.2 feet by 2100. The regional presentation includes the warning that Hampton Roads is second only to New Orleans in terms of population and infrastructure at risk to sea-level rise and storm-surge flooding. ….

Kurz & Allison lithographic of the 1862 battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac at Hampton Roads. That beach is surely much more developed by now

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