Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rhode Island prepares for sea level rise

Providence Journal: ….This fall, the state agency that regulates coastal development in Rhode Island plans to become one of the first local regulatory agencies in the country to officially recognize the likelihood of sea-level rise and write policies and regulations to prepare for higher water.

The rising waters will require that new buildings in flood zones be constructed at higher elevations, says Grover Fugate, executive director of the Coastal Resources Management Council. He says there should also be changes in the state building code for coastal development and different rules for septic systems. Sewer outfalls and bridges may be affected.

“Climate change will have tremendous implications for us [in Rhode Island],” says Fugate. “Water temperature changes already are affecting the ecosystem. Last year, the shoreline erosion rate doubled to four feet in certain places.”

A CRMC subcommittee recently authorized Fugate to seek public comment on a new draft policy that recognizes the problems posed by sea-level rise and creates the framework for CRMC to prepare regulatory responses. CRMC chairman Michael Tikoian said the local agency is striving to “create the country’s first regulations to address sea-level rise.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that provides funds and guidance to CRMC, confirms that Rhode Island is out front on the sea-level rise issue. Oregon, Alaska and California are addressing global warming issues, according to NOAA spokesman Ben Sherman. “But Rhode Island is probably the first to have a sea-level policy not rolled in with other flooding issues.”…

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