Delaware Public Media

New report emphasizes planning for sea level rise

Dec 5, 2017

A new report from the Delaware Geological Survey and Delaware Coastal Programs uses sea level research and data from nearly the last decade to help the state plan for future flooding and erosion.

 

The report lists three scenarios the state and cities should use in longterm planning for infrastructure, land use and capital spending projects.

 

Researchers consider about 1.7 ft. of sea level rise by 2100 to be low priority, more than 3 ft. to be a medium priority, and 5 ft. of sea level rise to be a high priority.

 

John Callahan, a DGS climate scientist and chair of the Delaware Sea level Rise Technical Committee, says sea level rise is constantly changing, and can have significant effects on the environment.

 

“It causes changes in the accretion of the wetlands as they tend to migrate,” Callahan said. “It also changes salinity and the wetlands, flora, fauna into a tidal wetlands as well, and a higher water surface leads to more beach erosion…”

 

In the 100-page report, the Delaware Sea Level Rise Technical Committee reviews research from 2009 onward to assess if these scenarios put forth by Delaware in 2009 are still valid or need to be modified.

 

From this point forward, water levels will always be going up, not down, said DGS Director and State Geologist David Wunsch. Wunsch said every year a big storm hits Delaware, it becomes critically more important in its potential to cause damage.

 

“Our emergency responders are already thinking about that,” Wunsch said.

 

He continued, “The same storm that might hit this year would be a lot worse 20 or 30 years from now if sea levels are another half a foot higher because that water will just penetrate into the land, create that much more damage.”

 

The full report can be found on the Delaware Geological Survey's website.