Wetland, Stream Bank, and Shoreline Restoration
Coastal Erosion Control: Adapting to Sea Level Rise
The erosion control industry has an important role to play in sea level rise adaptation. And there is no question that we must adapt. The science is very clear on that. As the world continues to warm, our ice caps are melting. At the same time, during most of the industrial era, stormwater has been treated as a disposable asset, and high volumes of runoff have been dumped into our streams and rivers, and ultimately into our oceans. With more water in the atmosphere, the resulting rise in the intensity of storm events has placed even more pressure on coastal communities.
Examples will be discussed outlining the serious nature of this problem. For example, Florida's Miami-Dade County, with a population nearing three million people, sits on land that is on average below two feet above sea level. With sea level rise forecasts calling for one to three feet of sea level rise in that region by the year 2100, the potential impacts on immediate future generations are both obvious and alarming. Whole nations are looking at the reality of relocation. The Maldives, a very low lying Pacific Island island country, is looking seriously at the moving its entire population to higher ground.
The erosion control industry is playing an important role in sea level rise adaptation, and that role will grow significantly in the future. Tools and techniques are evolving quickly to assist with coastal protection. Techniques range from soft to hard armoring, and include dune restoration, beach nourishment, coastal wetland protection and living shoreline methodology.
This session will begin with an overview of the impacts of sea level rise, and then review the existing toolbox for coastal erosion protection. In the end, the workshop will provide a map for future adaptation to rising seas.
Many challenges stand in the way of progress regarding coastal protection. Nationally and around the globe, there is no clear shared strategy in this critical area. In the United States for example, there is no national plan. Coastal erosion protection is handled on a state by state basis, and acceptable or prescribed solutions vary greatly from state to state.
In his highly renowned book, "High Tide on Main Street," author John Englander stated profoundly that intelligent adaptation to sea level rise is of critical importance. The decisions we make now and in the immediate future will be the measure of our effectiveness. Another famous author, Ian McCarg, in his important book, "Design With Nature," reminded us that the Netherlands has been dealing with coastal erosion issues for thousands of years, and that we should pay close attention to their methodology.
In the end we must squarely confront the serious impacts of sea level rise. Through education and sharing of ideas, the erosion control industry has an important role to play in this important conversation.