Why take action at the local level?

Why should municipal and county governments be discussing sea level rise now?

A recent Winthrop University poll shows an overwhelming amount of coastal residents support planning for sea level rise.  From the poll:

” According to the Winthrop Poll those living in coastal counties are quite familiar with the issue of rising seas with 68% saying that they are very sure or somewhat sure sea-level rise is or will be happening.  That compares to 55.4% of respondents from non-coastal counties.  Statewide 57.3% said that sea levels will rise with only 8% saying that sea levels are and will not rise.   73.3%, support state and local governments taking actions to make South Carolina coastal communities better prepared for sea-level rise and its impacts.

Using the various options for predicted sea level rise (SLR), we calculated the vulnerable land area in Beaufort and Port Royal.

BeaufortSLR Port Royal SLR

One of the goals of community planning is to move the community toward what it should look like in 50 or 100 years, especially when today’s actions either help or hinder the ability of the community to be successful in the future. Three examples of how municipal and county governments provide forward-thinking planning include protecting historic buildings, planning parks and establishing zoning ordinances that define how a community grows.

Communities should include sea level rise on their future planning list because many sea level rise impacts are already being felt, including more frequent higher tides covering low-lying areas. Exceptionally high tides can damage the community’s buried utilities as well as flooding buildings long before these areas are inundated permanently by rising sea level. For example, storm and sewer lines and buried communications infrastructure represent a significant capital expense for any community. Since almost all communities already have difficulty meeting their current financial commitments, preventing future catastrophic economic losses caused by storm tides, magnified by rising sea level, should be a high priority of every coastal community.