Sea level rise remains a major concern in Delaware

With an average height of 60 feet above sea level, Delaware is one of the most vulnerable states for flooding and land erosion resulting from sea level rising.

Today Governor Jack Markell signed an executive order to address the threat of sea level rise and encourage more Delawareans to take a proactive approach on the issue.

The initiative was sponsored by a group of 14 Delaware environmental advocacy groups.

“Despite existing programs and initiatives, we continue to experience very real and very wide ranging impacts from flooding that are aggravated from storms and rising sea levels,” said Markell. “Over the past few years we’ve seen hurricanes and droughts, we’ve seen record precipitation, and we’ve seen severe inland and coastal flooding, all of which affect so many of our communities and so many of our people.”

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The regularity and severity of recent storms such as Hurricane Sandy, is an example of what the state will continue to face in the future.

“What we know is, Hurricane Sandy showed us what we’re going to see more of,” said Kate Hackett, executive director of the Delaware Wild Lands. “In fact, it used to be that that type of event used to be what we planned for in the 50 year range or 100 year range, but that type of event is happening much more frequently now.”

On the state level, Gov. Markell said the resolution highlights three main initiatives:

-Continuing Delaware’s national leadership in reducing greenhouse gases

-Requiring state agencies and encouraging local government to develop strategies to improve the resiliency of state operations and facilities with a focus of using natural systems and green infrastructure

-Requiring state agencies to plan for sea level rising in new state-funded projects

“Every single activity that we can do today that makes Delaware more resilient, more prepared for these challenges, will pay for itself tenfold compared to the potential impacts we could have,” explained DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara.

The state has already created several initiatives to reduce emissions and to put flood protections in place.

Dike repair projects are currently underway in New Castle County, as well as dam repairs and beach replenishment in Kent and Sussex Counties.

O’Mara added that it’s not just for the environmental benefits, it also affects public health and the state’s economy.

“There is not a better investment we can make to our economy, so companies don’t have to worry about their future in Delaware,” said O’Mara.

The week of Sept 14-22 will be Delaware’s first Sea Level Rise Awareness Week with informational events scheduled throughout the state.

On Friday Sept. 13, WHYY will air a story about sea level rise on First at 5:30 and 11 p.m.

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