21 October 2012 (Delaware Online) – Collin O’Mara has the calculation just right. The secretary of the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control says Delaware’s taxpayers should get something in return for any money they put up to save beaches from sea-level rise.
“I think that there are limits to what public dollars should be used for in this conversation,” he said.
Delawareans are debating what to do with bayshore properties caught between rising water and life at the beach.
The area is sinking faster than other parts of the Atlantic Coast. In addition, the ocean level is rising. Delaware’s land will be flooded. Much of the beach we enjoy today will be gone in a few years. This back and forth between the land and the sea has gone on since the earth’s beginning. But many scientists say climate change is accelerating the movement.
The sea is rising and what we have known of life at the beach will be forced to change with it.
Do we fight or flee?
Rising tides have taken homes in some areas. Replenished sand simply has been washed away by the waves.
Millions of dollars are at stake. Replenishing sand is expensive. Buying out beach homes is expensive too.
A basic question is one of fairness: Who should pay?
“I do think that we need to make sure that if there are public dollars involved, there are actually public benefits and it doesn’t just accrue to an individual,” Secretary O’Mara said. As today’s front-page story on issue reports, Mr. O’Mara suggested that bayshore beaches with public access have the best chance of receiving state funds.
The threat goes beyond beach house and the people lucky enough to live in them. The rising ocean tide will move up the Delaware for example. The brine will move closer to water supplies in Philadelphia. It will travel upstream and destroy farmland. Some kind of defense will be needed. That is why is important that public money be spent on public benefits.
Otherwise, the taxpayers will be subsidizing a lucky few and harming future efforts to protect the public’s real interests.