Row, Row, Row Your Boat–And Raise That Airport…

I try to read pretty broadly–both to inform myself and to come up with fodder for this blog. But I’ll admit that my reading materials of choice ordinarily would be unlikely to include Engineering News Record, which bills itself as “The Construction Resource.”

However, my husband, a retired architect, subscribes and reads it religiously, and I have to admit the publication quite often has fascinating information that you just don’t see elsewhere. Case in point: the August 7/14 issue’s special report on rising sea levels and what a sampling of threatened communities are doing about them.

I learned a lot.

  • Tangier Island, Virginia, has lost more than 66% of its land mass since 1850, and is eroding by some 25 additional feet each year.  Its Mayor wants to build a seawall, but the Army Corp of Engineers says the island will have to be abandoned sometime within the next 50 years.
  • In Cape Cod, the shrinking of the salt marsh is being met with construction of $4.8 million dollar bridge intended to restore natural tidal flow and–hopefully–sustain the wetlands. The article says the bridge is an example of a number of small, but high-impact projects that are their “best hope for fighting climate change.”
  • Boston is projected to experience between 2 and 6 feet of sea-level rise by 2200, and among other projects is building and reinforcing seawalls.
  • In New York City, Superstorm Sandy lent urgency to a “Big U” planned flood-protection system and an East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.
  • Atlantic City is building a 1,740 foot long seawall.
  • The Hampton Roads region of Norfolk, Virginia–facing one of the “worst combinations of erosion, subsidence and sea level rise in the nation”–explored the building of seawalls and sea gates, and concluded such measures would be too costly; according to the article, they are “looking for ways to live with increasing flooding.”

The article also reports on measures being studied or taken in Charleston,  Hattaras Island, Dare County, N.C., Houston, Miami Beach (which faces a sea level rise of 1.4 feet by 2040), Sacramento, Seattle and Louisiana (where measures to keep the state’s coastlines from falling apart have thus far been inadequate.)

Perhaps the most challenging situations are found at twelve of the nation’s airports. San Francisco is raising levees, and Miami International (facing 2 feet of sea level rise by 2060) is currently elevating its baggage handling area. But as one engineer notes, “You can’t just raise one runway–you have to raise the entire airport.”

I know you will be shocked–shocked–to learn that Trump’s proposed budget eliminates several of the climate-resilience programs that are helping these and other coastal communities with the enormous costs involved in these efforts.

Trump and Scott Pruitt–who is systematically dismantling the EPA–are both proponents of continued and even increased use of the fossil fuels that accelerate the pace of climate change. They dismiss–or choose to ignore– the scientific consensus. Trump reportedly told the mayor of a town located on an island that is sinking into the ocean “not to worry.” See, if we don’t worry about it, everything will be hunky-dory…

Just last week, Trump dissolved the science panel advising the EPA on climate change and rising sea levels. 

Too bad we can’t send Trump, Pruitt and other “alternate facts” assholes to an alternate universe where reality doesn’t bite.