Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chatham in Georgia plans for natural hazards

Mary Landers the Savannah Morning News: You can be skeptical of climate change and still advocate that Chatham County plan for rising sea levels and increased flooding. Wilmington Island resident Marianne Heimes made that point Thursday at a workshop sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help the county develop a road map for adapting to coastal risk.

"I'm a little on the fence about global warming," said Heimes, who heads up Island Citizens for Logical Growth. "But I still think we need to plan for its possible effects. In Savannah, the anticipation every year is a hurricane. Thankfully, we haven't had one, but we still plan for a hurricane. That's how this needs to be done. It has to be we're doing this in the event sea level rises."

In fact, the sea has already risen, said state climatologist David Stooksbury. At Fort Pulaski, there's been an almost 9-inch change measured since 1935. "This is due to both the ocean rising and the land here sinking a little," said Stooksbury, who participated in the two-day workshop and made a presentation at Thursday's closing session for public officials. "We are seeing sea level rise."

The workshop gathered municipality and county planners, public safety officials, elected officials and others to discuss how the county can adapt to existing natural hazards and those posed by climate change. In many cases, the adaptations are the same, such as increasing the size of culverts when they need to be replaced. It was a pilot program for NOAA, which has hosted workshops elsewhere to examine natural hazards, but intended this one to go a step further toward action.

…He sees further sea level rise in Georgia as inevitable, and it appears to be headed toward the higher end of predictions, at about 3 feet of rise by 2100. But he also pointed out the adaptations suggested for climate change can help Chatham County prepare for less controversial hazards. "Adaptation is a win-win," Stooksbury said. "Whether you do it for climate change or to make sure you can survive a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, it doesn't matter."

Fort Pulaski, Georgia, shot by Brooke Novak, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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