A Delaware committee completed recommendations for dealing with sea-level rise, which threatens the state's coastline, such as this section of Fowler Beach seen on 22 May 2013. Photo: GARY EMEIGH / THE NEWS JOURNAL

By Jeff Montgomery
24 May 2013

(The News Journal) – In a symbolic blow to state climate change adaption efforts, the Delaware county with most at stake in future sea-level rise forecasts abruptly declined to take any stand on the issue Thursday as a state panel approved dozens of recommendations for dealing with the threat.

Jeff Shockley, Sussex County delegate to the state’s Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee, said local officials instructed him to abstain from voting on any of the roughly 60 options developed by the group over a 2½-year period. That move followed a skeptical response to the state effort by some County Council members during a briefing in Georgetown this month.

Despite the county abstentions, committee members completed recommendations that will go to Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin P. O’Mara after a final report-signing meeting in August.

The options range from broad directions to improve coordination among federal, state, county and local agencies and include sea-level rise in growth plans to a call for expanded public education and better collection of data on climate change indicators and sea-level changes.

Hours later, Delaware’s congressional delegation announced $20 million in National Science Foundation grants for science education and research at four Delaware higher education centers, emphasizing the effect of sea-level rise and soil contamination consequences.

“This is another good step in understanding how the changing climate and human impacts on the land affect our environment now and for many years to come,” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a statement.

Renewable energy technologies, such as offshore wind, and workforce development also will be targeted in the research, along with the development of new sensors for environmental monitoring. The grants will support collaborations involving the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wesley College and Delaware Technical Community College.

O’Mara commissioned a study in 2010 of the state’s vulnerability to climate change and adaptation options. The initiative followed a court ruling that DNREC lacked authority to consider sea-level rise in the denial of a wastewater permit in a flood-prone area near Leipsic and the Delaware Bay.

The vulnerability report, released last year, was based on a projected 3- to 5-foot rise in sea levels if pollution-driven climate change continues, a prospect that would permanently flood 11 percent of the state’s land area by 2100, from Wilmington to Fenwick Island.

Some 20,000 dwellings, nearly all of the state’s tidal wetlands, whole bayside communities as well as roads, important public resources and some industrial areas could face permanent inundation, according to predictions based on national and international studies. Sussex County, with its heavy ocean and bayside development, would be hit hardest.

Chip Guy, spokesman for Sussex County, said afterward the county government was nevertheless unprepared to vote on the options Thursday and could not provide an estimate for when it would be prepared to vote.

“While there may be individual concerns among some members of council, the body as a whole has not taken a position,” Guy said. “Because of the scope and number of recommendations being made, the county needs more time to thoroughly review those options being discussed and voted on.”

O’Mara issued a statement Thursday night in response to the county’s decision.

“The science is extremely compelling and we have many vulnerabilities that need to be addressed in the years ahead,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to work with Sussex County to help improve community resiliency to extreme storms and sea-level rise to prevent millions of dollars in future damage to infrastructure, private property and businesses.”

Until Thursday, Shockley had been an active participant, attending public comment sessions held in each county as the group’s recommendations began to take shape. Guy said Thursday the council received a presentation on the recommendations earlier this month and “simply wants more time to digest and review the vast number of recommendations made by the committee.”

In a recording of that council briefing earlier this month, some members were plainly skeptical of the risk and questioned DNREC’s success in bringing landowners into the process. Council member Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, said those predicting sea-level rise “have no facts … no science. It’s almost B.S., to be honest with you.” [more]

Saving Delaware's coast from sea-level rise


  1. Anonymous said...

    Crazy. Seriously crazy. Use your vote to get people like Samuel Wilson (R-Georgetown) OUT of office. I'm pretty much middle-of-the-road. Not pro-Republican or pro-Democratic. But I am pro-common sense. Look at his comments and you'll see that he simply doesn't believe in science...only the word of the Bible. And that's fine...for his personal life. But NOT when it impacts my future and our children's future. He's got his head in the sand...do not let him drag us all down with him.  


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