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climate change Delaware Bay strategic retreat

Port Mahon Delaware

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.

By tonynovak

founder and current controller of Baysave

2 replies on “Port Mahon Delaware”

Hi Tony, I am curious of the History of Port Mahon, it is my happy place since I moved from PA. I worry about the amount of trash that lazy people leave behind, which myself and others pick up. I also search for sea glass on the small beaches and wonder if this spot was ever a dump for rubbish in the early 1900’s? The ducks and birds that fly through here make this a very enjoyable spot for photographers, myself included. I have turned over many horseshoe crabs and rescued more from being trapped in the rocks! Can you help me with my research for the sea glass?

I live across the bay on the NJ side. As far as I know, the old sea glass came from the glass factories around the Millville NJ area. We understand that they dumped slag into the bay for many years. There is less of it now since most big pieces are collected.

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