Delaware residents weigh what to do about rising sea levels
February 25, 2013By Carolyn Beeler
Recent state projections show eight to eleven percent of Delaware could be flooded next century by rising sea levels. As many as 17,0000 homes could be under water by then.
This month, Delaware's Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee is collecting public input on 61 potential steps for mitigating damage.
Susan Love, a planner with the coastal programs section of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said turnout at the first two public meetings on the topic was good.
"Everyone in Delaware is a coastal resident," Love said. "Nobody in the state of Delaware lives more than about eight miles away from a tidal body of water."
Due to geologic factors, the mid-Atlantic region is sinking. That means sea levels are rising twice as quickly in Delaware compared to the global average.
Love says one proposal among the 61 is getting a lot of chatter: that home sellers be required to disclose sea level risks to prospective buyers.
"This is very controversial because people feel that there's a lot of uncertainty about where areas may be permanently flooded or not," Love said. "People are afraid that that would very much impact their property values."
The potential adaptations are based on a vulnerability assessment of the entire state released in September by the Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee.
Even the most conservative sea level projections in the assessment show some homes in low-lying South Wilmington will be permanently flooded by the year 2100 if no action is taken.
According to councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz, some neighbors are already talking about an eventual exodus.
"You can't raise the houses, you can't raise the streets, you can't raise the infrastructure, so you have to remove ourselves from that area," Shabazz said.
Other suggestions in the report include developing a statewide retreat plan, and a call for increased coordination among federal, state and local officials to ensure sea level rise is taken into account when improving or permitting transportation and infrastructure projects.
The last of three public engagement sessions on the topic is being held Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Kent County Levy Court Complex in Dover.
Comments can be submitted online until March 14. Suggestions will be incorporated into a draft plan for sea level rise adaptation in Delaware.