From a local aquaculture perspective, 2018 was not a productive year for legislative action. At the end of 2017 we had plans to move forward on a number of issues but that just did not happen. The recent campaign where our state Senator Jeff Van Drew was elected to the US Congress was apparently a big part of the reason for lack of focus on our intended issues. The legislator’s staff told me that their just wasn’t time in the schedule. I hope to change that in 2019. I just sent this e-mail message to Assemblyman Bruce Land and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak in hopes of scheduling a meeting.
At the beginning of 2018 we had high hopes of progress in a number of aquaculture-related issues that I’ve previously discussed with Senator Van Drew and communicated with Jon Atwood. Unfortunately with the recent election and other distractions, we saw little progress on local issues. We would like to get your input and opinion on these open issues:
– A master plan for sustainable redevelopment of South Jersey’s second most productive seafood landing port.
– Coordination of private and public community redevelopment funding that has been out-of-sync lately.
– Stalled regulation reform for transfer of commercial crab licenses.
– State’s treatment of the new watermens’ cooperative.
I would welcome the opportunity to come to your office to discuss the local industry planning for 2019 to ensure that our efforts are in sync with legislative priorities.
Tony Novak, Controller
Aquaculture, by its nature of existing on state-controlled waters, must coordinate closely with state government. For years now major aquaculture investors have been waiting on the sidelines for a sign that state government will support expansion of the industry. The reverse effect – the demonstration that the state attorney general was willing to sue aquaculture companies with pending or stalled permit applications – sent shivers through the local industry. The last word I heard from an industry lobbyist was that his clients planned to wait and see what happens with us at Money Island before venturing forth with their own money.
We appreciate the ongoing efforts of Downe Township and Cumberland County officials. But we really need the state government to be on-board with the local and regional planning and funding to allow us to move forward.
Tomorrow my neighbors’ houses on Bayview Road at Money Island NJ will be torn down by a state contractor. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t ask me “Why?” Yet even with as many times as I had to respond to this question, I still don’t have a neat concise answer. More disturbing, I don’t have an answer that I really believe. Some former homeowners here would say they were unable to handle the high costs associated with rising water levels. Others, like our mayor, call it “NJDEP terrorism” as the state threatened massive fines against us without offering any source of funds to address the new environmental challenges. At least a few of my former neighbors would say they were just scared away by what they saw happening around them.
I still wonder about the thought process that went into my neighbors’ thinking about selling and moving out that caused them to act differently when negotiating with the state compared to what they told me in person when we talked last. I was surprised and apparently the local government was equally surprised that 100% of the neighbors across the bridge elected to sell their properties. The overall buyout completion rate is 80%, according to NJ Blue Acres office, indicating that normally a few houses remain after a buyout. It might have had to do with the bridge itself that was badly corroded and appeared to be collapsing prior to the buyouts. Ironically, the bridge repair and seawall construction were completed after the buyouts were planned.
No doubt this is am emotional and sad time for many. Looking at the photos, I think of the happy times I’ve had as a guest in many of these neighbors houses in earlier times. I also think of the few neighbors who later blamed me for causing the state to acquire these houses. I try to not think too much about the bizarre events that led to death threats and even an attempt on my life by an angry neighbor and a politician for my role in trying to preserve this community.
After tomorrow only two houses will be left on Bayview road. My home office is one of the two and this site is proposed as a research/educational facility for the future. The only reason these two properties were spared the devastating impact of higher and more violent wave action is because we are protected by a half million dollar sea wall, sand berms, and more sturdy pilings that elevate the buildings.
Many other questions come up at a time like this. Is the state’s strategic retreat policy sound? (Surely we can’t afford to relocate our entire New Jersey coastal population inland!) Will we be besieged by another round of ‘disaster tourists’ after the tear downs (like after Sandy)? Or will the area’s use as a nature preserve bring positive change? Will the state step up it’s legal harassment against the two remaining homeowners? How will we cope with wilder wetter weather and the flooding ahead? What physical accommodations will be necessary to accommodate higher water levels and more damaging erosion? Will my floating barge-based infrastructure construction designs gradually become accepted under state regulations or will I continue to clash with the older dry land building codes? We just do not know the answers to these questions yet.
We do know that the future of Money Island is bright. It is the region’s second most productive seafood landing port. The local seafood industry is now entering a significant growth phase based on new technology and changing water conditions. Money Island remains an important research and recreational spot. Millions of dollars are being spent here to sustain and redevelop the area in a sustainable future.
We also know that we won’t be the last residential community to grapple with these strategic retreat questions related to the removal of homes. I just wish we weren’t among the first to have to figure out where to go from here.
This photograph of a cabin taken in 2017 shows part of a former residence constructed on dry land decades ago that was consumed by sea level rise and storms, and is now completely removed. Almost 100% of the lot is now below mean high tide line and the state has acquired the property for open space.
Yesterday the federal government of the United States released the most shocking and stark assessment of our lives, forecasting severe problems ahead in coming decades. The report is compiled by several different government agencies. Late Wednesday on the eve before Thanksgiving the Trump administration, apparently in an effort to minimize the shock to the American people, moved the scheduled release date of the report from December until late in the day on Black Friday. Now we understand why.
The findings and forecasts included in yesterday’s Fourth National Climate Assessment report are more stark and shocking than anything we’ve read so far. This blog post is a collection of excerpts from the report that most strongly affect us at the bay.
Findings most directly affecting us at the bay
“The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid”
“Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization.”
“it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century“
“In addition to warming, many other aspects of global climate are changing, primarily in response to human activities.”
“Global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise—by at least several inches in the next 15 years and by 1–4 feet by 2100. A rise of as much as 8 feet by 2100 cannot be ruled out1. Sea level rise will be higher than the global average on the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.”
“Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency across the United States and globally and is expected to continue to increase. The largest observed changes in the United States have occurred in the Northeast.”
“over the next few decades (2021–2050), annual average temperatures are expected to rise by about 2.5°F for the United States”
“Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”
“While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.”
“Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.”
“Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.
“Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values2.”
“Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways”
Baysave immediate response
Since its founding in 2010, Baysave has adopted and worked with earlier forecasts from government and academia that climate change is the world’s #1 greatest challenge. This issue has been at the core of our mission. But this new report issued by the the federal government is far more stark than we have realized and planned for in our strategic and operational guidelines to date. We can immediately conclude:
This report sets a new legal standard of care for management of public and private institutions. Those who state that they don’t ‘believe’ in human-caused climate change and subscribe to official government mitigation strategy expose themselves and their organizations to civil and perhaps criminal liability.
Our future is more bleak than we realized, and shocking disruptive change will come sooner than we realized.
The Trump administration’s handling of the release of this major news indicates that that there will be political wrangling ahead that will increase our strife and damage. We do not expect direct logical response by government.
The government officials who compiled this report have changed the path of this nation’s government and maybe the future of the world.
Baysave’s only logical response is to re-assess our business plans and strategy in light of this shocking new information.
1 This is the first admission by government that past forecasts have substantially under-estimated the impact of climate change. 2 This is a stark warning that the revenue base of east coast communities – real estate taxes – will be destroyed.
In March of 2018 the Uniform Construction Code was modified to exempt many types of minor work from permitting requirements. This is important because many bay structures do not qualify for building permits. Find the details here.
This change in building permit requirements does not affect other laws like CAFRA and NJDEP requirements.
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO.org) lists among its priorities “Recognizing small-scale fisheries as a fundamental contributor to poverty alleviation and food security“. While this concept is widely recognized in economic planning of third world countries, it is just as important in disadvantaged US seafood landing port communities.
Baysave is working to promote healthy, sustainable local aquaculture and fisheries industries in the rural and disadvantaged bayshore region of New Jersey on the Delaware Bay. The key to success in revitalization of this industry is the availability of high impact investment funds from angel investors with a vision to convert today’s low priced fishery and aquaculture assets into more productive facilities using technology that is already successfully employed in other places.
Success in this area isn’t ‘rocket science’. We know that the Delaware Bay crab and oyster industries are poised for sustainable long term expansion. This conclusion is based on observation of tenfold go twentyfold overall production increases in nearby Chesapeake Bay and Barnegat Bay. We simply need to align government permitting so that we can attract investment capital for infrastructure and business development. Unfortunately, New Jersey has a history of ineffective governance in this area and a political structure that resists change.
Small local fisheries and aquaculture remains dependent on two factors:
1) Ability to obtain state government permitting
2) Ability to attract investment funds
We remain committed to addressing these needs for the local bayshore community.
This page is a collection of links and summaries of oyster restoration efforts on a state-by-state basis and around the world. The sources on this page date back to 2009 through 2015. If you have a project that should be included, please write to us.
A 2014 article in Nature Climate Change published online this week at nature.org gives insight into four ocean acidification hot zones affecting the shellfish. One is the mid-Atlantic region including the Delaware and Chesapeake bays. Although the whole problem will takes decades to control, the immediate focus of control measures in our region is on limiting nutrient runoff from agricultural operations.
Samson Street Oyster House in Philadelphia is recycling its shells for future restoration efforts. Philly.com reports: “We live in the Delaware Bay estuary, we buy Delaware Bay oysters, we’re selling them, then we’re taking the byproduct – the shells, the waste, basically – and instead of it going to a landfill, we’re putting it back into the bay to become reef for new oysters,” Oyster House owner Sam Mink said. “For us, it’s a win-win. It closes the loop and reduces our trash.”
The Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Project, an ongoing effort to revitalize Eastern oysters in Delaware Bay, will be honored with a 2008 Coastal America Partnership Award. The Coastal America Partnership Award is the only environmental award of its kind given by the White House. The program has two objectives: to enhance survival by providing clean shell to which juvenile oysters can attach and grow, and to maintain the ecology of the bay by sustaining oyster reefs that would otherwise degrade over time due to natural processes.
The Shuck and Share Oyster Recycling Project has recycled over 40,000 pounds of oyster shells from by 11 participating local restaurants. This web page also has links to the Mar Discover Center’s volunteer activities.
Florida will receive $6 million from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to assist with the recovery of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery. Most to be used for oyster reef restoration,
The City of Stuart partnered with Florida Oceanographic Society in the Treasure Coast Shell Recycling Program. This program collects discarded oyster, clam and mussel shells from restaurants and recycles them into the estuary to provide a habitat for new oysters. What is notable about this project is that shell is collected in 5 gallon buckets (we presume thousands of them are needed) that are collected weekly. The human labor requirement and the odor control factors if this program must be major considerations. Also, the article mentions that shell are only cleaned for “3 or more months” before deployment. Most other programs let shell sit for a year to remove the organic material before shell is recycled into estuaries.
Fox News reports that the level of support for experiments to repopulate oysters in the 156 mile Indian River Lagoon has been overwhelming. Waterfront property owners signed up for classes as volunteers for the oyster restoration project. Recent deaths of hundreds of pelicans, manatees, and dolphins have been blamed on the poor water quality in the lagoon. Oyster restoration is seem as the means for improving water quality.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used volunteers to collect used oyster shells from coastal restaurants and place them on the shorelines of the Tolomato River. The oysters formed a man-made reef, which acts as a barrier between incoming waves from ships and boats, decreasing the wave’s energy before it hits the Wright’s Landing coastline.
The cause of oysters die-off in bays near Pensacola remains unclear, but officials contend habitats must be replenished and then given time to rebuild a healthy population. There are no sign that dermo is harming oysters in East Bay.
A cooperative effort of local waterfront homeowners, baby oyster spat from Florida Gulf Coast University and a $5,000 grant from the Texas-based Gulf of Mexico Foundation to pay for the supplies.
Joe’s Bayou is their oyster: Volunteers’ efforts will help prevent shoreline erosion
September 28, 2009 The DestinLog.com
The oyster reef will benefit the environment in several ways. It provides a refuge for juvenile fish and crabs and a feeding ground for game fish. It also helps prevent shoreline erosion. “The physical presence of the reef can break up wave energy and keep the shoreline from eroding,” McDowell said. “After the oyster reef is done, we’ll also plant emergent vegetation along the shoreline to help prevent erosion.”
The Coastal Conservation Association and Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources spread bagged oyster shells along specific areas around Oatland Island in an effort to revitalize oyster populations. The project totaled 913 bags of oyster shells that totaled about 18,000 pounds.
The Living Shoreline Restoration Project is designed to implement and study various techniques for stabilizing eroding habitat, with consideration to the natural ecology of Georgia’s coastal environment. One technique is the creation of oyster reefs. The project is funded in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana recently implemented the state’s first formal oyster shell recycling program to collect shell from New Orleans restaurants. The program is funded with a $1 million grant from Shell.
“A 12-person team of Nature Conservancy staff and volunteers, including eight DuPont employees, spent a Saturday morning fishing in the Bay of St. Louis in the Gulf of Mexico.
The fishing expedition was a methodical research project designed to test the ecological benefits of a 15-acre oyster reef restoration site created by the Conservancy and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources this spring.
Using four boats, researchers fished for four hours on a rising tide, taking turns casting their rods on and off the reef. Results proved encouraging as 113 fish (including 69 white sea trout) were caught on the newly created oyster reef and 61 were caught off the reef.
“This is what we were hoping for,” said Mike Murphy, coastal field representative for The Nature Conservancy in Mississippi. “The main reason for this oyster reef restoration work is to create habitat for a diversity of fish and other aquatic species and to encourage the natural regeneration of other oyster reefs, which help to improve water quality.”
The report might have been distributed by The Nature Conservancy to local newspapers but we did not locate the original underlying report.
This oyster gardening program is different from other oyster restoration projects because the oysters that are planted in Mobile Bay are about 3 inches. Planting the oysters in November after they have grown to that size makes them stronger and more likely to survive than oysters typically planted on reefs for restoration. The bigger oysters also will be able to spawn their first spring in the Bay, making even more oysters. The program is sponsored by Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, Auburn University and Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Deadman’s Island is a thin strip of land located in Pensacola Bay is the victim of constant erosion, is a cultural and historical landmark in the area. Gulf Breeze city officials worked closely with state environment officials and Ecological Consulting Services, Inc. to draft the restoration project designed to stabilize the island and prevent it from disappearing.
Maryland is buying over 112,000 tons of oyster shell from Florida at a price of $6.3 million and paying another $3 million to ship them by rail for use in rebuilding Chesapeake Bay oyster reefs. The shells will be used by Maryland Department of Natural Resources for reef building projects in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank River.
Results of tests in the Choptank to rebuild oyster reefs that will revitalize the Chesapeake Bay are surprisingly better than expected. The study was the cooperative effort of various groups in Maryland and Virginia.
Demolished Dam Finds New Home Helping Chesapeake Bay Oysters
November 5, 2011 Annapolis Patch
Concrete rubble from the demolished dam on the Patapsco River was moved to a 2 acre site in the Chesapeake Bay where it will be seeded with 4 million oyster spat with the assistance of The Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Over the past decade, billions of oysters have been planted in the Chesapeake Bay, pushed off of boats by the thousands to settle on sanctuaries and managed reserves throughout the watershed but results have been impaired by several factors. Habitat degradation, disease and overharvesting have taken their toll on the native oyster, reducing its numbers to less than one percent of peak population.
The state’s Marylanders Grow Oysters program is the newest opportunity for people to get involved in raising oysters at their piers. This year, volunteers are growing 1.5 million to 2.5 million oysters in 5,000 cages suspended from piers and docks.
After the Potomac’s public oyster grounds administered by the Potomac River Fisheries Commission have all but succumbed to a pair of oyster diseases and over harvesting, private growers on leased beds were able to restore oyster populations. Yields increased 10 times over last year after planting seed on leased grounds 3 years ago.
The Federal Highway Administration has awarded its Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative Award to the Maryland Transportation Authority, the Department of Natural Resources, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other partners for creating the Asquith Creek Oyster Reef in the Severn River last fall. The 3-acre reef provides a sanctuary for 4 million juvenile oysters and was made from demolished concrete from the Bay Bridge Preservation Project. Its purpose is improving the Chesapeake Bay water quality and was done as part of the state’s sustainable growth program, Smart, Green and Growing, created by Gov. Martin O’Malley last year.
Members of the Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society and the Calvert Marine Museum recently deposited more than 200,000 oysters on test sites in the Mill Creek watershed. The test will help scientists identify locations most likely to support viable oyster communities.
Mark Faherty, science coordinator for Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, talked about the oyster habitat restoration project, now underway, which plans to restore wild oyster reefs on land owned by Mass. Audubon off Lieutenant Island. “We are testing three reef-building materials. … And preliminary results indicate a high density of oyster set on the three experimental materials in July, 2009,” he said.
An important part of this collaborative effort that includes the involvement of riparian owners. In the backyard of a private home two 275-gallon seawater tanks serve as a nursery for young oysters. A similar system has operated in the Tisbury Great Pond for years with great success.
While land-based oyster shell seeding and transplant programs are the norm in other areas, apparently this is new for Mississippi. The program is being tested by a commercial grower and then may be expanded to the public reefs by the state.
New Jersey legislators proposed legislation that would guarantee citizens the right to cultivate oyster gardens following a ban by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection in 2010. The bill’s sponsor announced a resolution was reached between Baykeeper and the DEP pending final outcome of the proposed resolution.
“Barnegat Bay is in trouble. Everyone can see that. And one study after another has confirmed it. Time is not on the side of those who would delay action. The bay generates an estimated $4.4 million in annual revenue from tourism and commercial fishing for Ocean County”
Rutgers research indicates malformed oyster tissue embedded with tumors, as well as unusually thin shells.
A statement on “PCBs and dioxins stick to river bottom sediments and get taken up by shellfish, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services” does not include reference to source detail. I was unable to find a source. The only result of a search on hhs.gov for “oyster + pcb” said “The presence of toxic chemicals in the aquatic environment leads to the potential for contamination of fish and shellfish. These chemicals include pesticides, other industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) , heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, and mercury), and petroleum hydrocarbons (emphasis added).
Funding for 2011 program funding included the Delaware Bay section of New Jersey Shell Fisheries Council, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Delaware Shellfish Advisory Council, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, DuPont Clear into the Future, PSEG Nuclear and private donors including local restaurants.
A shell-planting program in the Delaware Bay that has helped offset dying oyster populations due to warming ocean temperatures has hit a federal funding cap, and supporters are lobbying for more government money arguing it helps the environment and the economy
Research into the impact of underwater sounds on oyster larvae settlement rates being funded by the National Science Foundation. Previously, it was widely believed that settlement rates were primarily a function of tidal water flow rates.
Hammocks Beach State Park Ranger Jake Vitak will give a presentation at 5:30 p.m. about the collaborative restoration project by the park and the N.C. Coastal Federation to preserve the oyster habitat at Jones Island.
Pender Watch has an oyster shell recycle program in which people can drop off oyster shells to points at several other locations throughout the County. Pender Watch then holds a “shell bagging party” where volunteers come together to bag all the collected shells. A specially made mesh bag, environmentally friendly, is used to hold the shells. The reef building process can then begin. This a joint venture with the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina.
NCCF and the state’s Coastal Reserve Program are sponsoring the work as part of a project to clean up debris from a former causeway on Permuda Island in Stump Sound. The N.C. Division of Water Resources is paying for the project, the release states. Volunteers will place about 1,000 bags of recycled oyster shells around the edge of an old causeway and plant over 2,500 marsh-plant seedlings along the shoreline. The shell bags will attract oyster larvae that will attach to the empty shells and start an oyster reef. Once planted the salt marsh seedlings will help stabilize the shoreline and restore marsh habitat in the project area.
The Army Corp of Engineers completed an artificial reef 250 feet by 50 feet in Matagorda Bay to provide structure for oyster recruitment. Expanding on the amplifying effect of these projects, the article says “The reef could cultivate as many as 60 acres of oyster beds. Though a fraction of the size of the natural reefs found a century ago in the bay, new oyster beds could play a dramatic role in restoring the ecosystem.”
These families are experimenting with “oyster gardening” — using old shells to provide the hard surface upon which oyster larvae can attach and grow. This is one of several creative projects, paid by federal and state grants, under way to restore a small portion of the 8,000 acres of oyster reefs killed when Hurricane Ike buried them in sediment a year ago. Oysters are important to the Texas economy as a food and are also efficient filters that remove contaminants from the water as they feed. A single oyster filters 50 gallons a day.
“The Chesapeake’s oyster reefs were destroyed by centuries of watermen towing rake like metal “dredges” and silted over by dirt flowing from the mid-Atlantic’s farms and growing cities. The final blow came in the mid-20th century: A pair of new diseases killed oysters by the millions. Now, in many places, the bay bottom is a flat expanse of green mud”. My comments focused on the need to consider the environmental value of restoration as separate and distinct from commercial shellfish value and second, to clarify that “elevated Houses” refer to the artificial reef structure, not human’s homes.
Native oyster species were once vital ecosystem engineers, but their populations have collapsed worldwide because of overfishing and habitat destruction. In 2004, we initiated a vast (35-hectare) field experiment by constructing native oyster reefs of three types (high-relief, low-relief, and unrestored) in nine protected sanctuaries throughout the Great Wicomico River in Virginia, United States. Upon sampling in 2007 and 2009, we found a thriving metapopulation comprising 185 million oysters of various age classes. Oyster density was fourfold greater on high-relief than on low-relief reefs, explaining the failure of past attempts. Juvenile recruitment and reef accretion correlated with oyster density, facilitating reef development and population persistence. This reestablished metapopulation is the largest of any native oyster worldwide and validates ecological restoration of native oyster species.
This report comes from the Department of Fisheries Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, VA 23062, USA.
8/3/2009 New York TimesPrimary source is Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. Scientists and watermen agree that oysters will grow in current dead zones. Also mentions past federal involvement in Virginia oyster restoration that later became a contentious issue.
Sea level rise is causing erosion that has all but swallowed this once-thriving town on the shore of the Delaware Bay.
These pictures taken in March 2011 tell the story of the current state of Port Mahon, Delaware. Once a popular bayside community, now all that is left is a boat launch lamp accessible at low tide. At high tide the road is impassible.
Physical deterioration was evident in March at the beginning of the spring storm season. It appears that if the road is not heavily maintained, it may be completely washed away with a few months. (See the photos with broken asphalt).
These sobering photos were taken on March 23, 2011, on a calm overcast day with light rain. Since this was not a full moon or any other lunar cycle, I concluded that this was a normal high tide. We generally expect tide levels to increase over the spring.
Two watermen had pulled boats and were leaving Port Mahon Road as I entered. It was about an hour before high tide. I wondered if they knew that the road became impassable at high tide, but I drove ahead anyway. The deepest water was about six inches, which is about the maximum my little SUV can handle.
On the long drive back home, I reconsidered the possibilities of hardening to resist erosion (the strategy used by my local community in New Jersey) as compared to a strategic retreat (the strategy endorsed by the scientific community). My guess is that we’ll do everything possible to avoid addressing the issue in a responsible and effective manner.
Note added at republishing: This is a review of an older 2012 article explaining the ‘hotspot’ phenomena. Since then, the forecasts of water level rise were revised upwards by Rutgers and others.
For years, sea level rise (SLR) has seriously impacted communities along the mid-Atlantic seacoast of the United States. Governments and individual residents in this region are financially and politically consumed by the demands of battling the effects of storms and erosion. The effects of storms and erosion consumes governments and individual residents in this region, both financially and politically. While scientists were reporting SLR predictions of less than one millimeter per year, the mid-Atlantic east coast was struggling with the devastating effects of increasingly violent inundation that has even destroyed entire communities(1). The lingering discrepancy in public perception between scientific explanation and the actual effects of SLR left governments unsure of the appropriate response.
This June 2012 report published in Nature Climate Change by the U.S. Geologic Survey(2) is important for three major findings:
First, although SLR is expected to be 2 to 4 feet on a global basis by the end of this century, that rise is not expected to come at the same time in all locations. Prior to the publication of this report, researchers did not consider that climate warming could affect SLR differently over time and at different locations. The authors propose that differences in the rate of SLR may be observed due to land movements, the strength of ocean currents, water temperature, and salinity.
Second, the report confirmed that the North Atlantic coast – referred to as the “hotbed” – had 3 to 4 times the global average SLR and that the trend is accelerating. Portions of the highly populated middle Atlantic region from Norfolk, VA to Boston, MA, , have experienced up to 7 inches of water rise in the past decade.
Third, the article extrapolates the accelerating trend of SLR to predict dire impact in the next few decades. The authors predict that communities in the “hotbed” can expect to see another 8 to 11 inches of sea level rise. These already impaired communities will increasingly experience devastating effects from even milder storms of the future.
This article serves as a wake-up call to governments that were slow to recognize the impact of SLR in the communities within their jurisdiction. Environmentalists used the publication of this paper and related publicity by US. Coast Guard(3) to amplify their message that “ignorance of science is not going to be a defense that politicians can wield for much longer”(4).
1 This topic is important in Money Island, New Jersey where three of the closest communities – Thompson’s Beach, NJ, Sea Breeze NJ and Port Mahon DE – have all recently been evacuated. The Money Island, NJ community is now being evacuated becasue of sea level rise.