GREENVILLE – Hurricanes, sea level rise, and precipitation are all growing threats to coastal life in North Carolina, but steps can be taken to mitigate these threats.
It was a take-home message from the first NC Water Adaptations to Ensure Regional Success summit on Wednesday. Representative Greg Murphy, RN.C., who represents Carteret County and much of eastern North Carolina, as well as Representative David Rouzer, RN.C, Senator Thom Tillis, RN.C. , and Representative GK Butterfield, DN. C., hosted the summit at the Hilton Greenville. They heard from scientists, engineers, local government officials, leaders of nonprofits and others on the threat of flooding and discussed legislative plans to address the challenges.
All lawmakers seemed to agree that flooding is a problem for the entire state, not just coastal areas, and that bipartisan solutions are needed.
âThis is such an important topic,â said Senator Tillis, âespecially in eastern North Carolina. We need to work with the (US Army Corps of Engineers) and the state to prepare for the next severe storm It’s not a question of if, but when.
North Carolina General Assembly President Tim Moore R-Cleveland said flooding is “indeed a big problem” in North Carolina.
âWe have seen the destruction caused to the state by hurricanes,â he said, âWe have seen issues where rivers are unable to flow and impermeable surfaces have affected things. All too often after these events, families feel that they are not receiving the support they need. It’s a problem from Manteo to Murphy.
Bringing together all the parties involved to develop solutions seems to be a key factor, according to the president of the American Flood Coalition, Jay Faison. He recommended establishing development and response standards to prepare for a so-called 500-year flood, a flood of such severity as that observed once every 500 years.
âHouston set a 500-year standard,â Mr. Faison said. âThey admitted they can’t reach 500 years in some places, but that’s a standard. If we changed to a 500 year standard, we would reduce the risk to North Carolina homes by 77%.
One of the contributing factors to flooding is the increasing frequency of precipitation. First Street Foundation data director Dr Ed Kearns said the precipitation frequency atlas for North Carolina has not been updated since 2006 and precipitation-based flooding continues to increase. take communities by surprise.
“It’s not a problem east of North Carolina or west of North Carolina,” Kearns said, “it’s a problem for everyone.”
Flooding not only threatens communities, it also threatens the environment. UNC Institute of Marine Sciences Kenan, professor of marine and environmental sciences, Dr Hans Paerl said flooding – caused by tropical storms and non-tropical precipitation – can affect water quality by carrying sediment and nutrients in bodies of water, causing algae blooms.
âWhen the algae die, they sink to the bottom and create dead spots,â Dr Paerl said.
These dead zones are areas with low oxygen content that can cause the death of fish and shellfish.
Dr Paerl said the key to solving the problem is to conserve as many nutrients as possible on earth. Potential solutions include creating more buffer zones for water bodies, more stormwater retention ponds and more developed wetlands.
Tropical storms and increasingly frequent hurricanes are a major concern for environmentalists, according to Dr Paerl.
â(Natural) systems can come back from a hurricane,â Dr. Paerl said, âbut it takes time. We are concerned about the imbalanceâ¦ we are losing our sea herbs due to the increased frequency of these storms.
Another factor in coastal flooding is rising sea levels globally and locally. Dean and Executive Director of Integrated Coastal Programs at East Carolina University Coastal Sturdies Institute, Dr Reide Corbett, said that while the global rate of sea level rise is about 1.3 inches per decade, rates are expected to increase significantly.
âWhat we should be seeing is 4.5 feet by 2100,â Dr. Corbett said. âWe need to start having these difficult conversations now. “
Rising sea levels can contribute to increased coastal flooding. Professor Laura Moore of UNC’s Department of Earth, Marine and Environmental Sciences and a collaborator for coastal adaptation in space and time, said that at predicted rates, flooding at high tide could become a daily occurrence in Duck and Wilmington by 2070.
“The effects of sea level rise will be exacerbated by other factors (such as) increased precipitation and tropical storms,” ââshe said.
Flood control will probably have to be managed at the local level. AFC Executive Director and Founder Melissa Roberts said potential solutions include city parks designed to reduce flooding and multi-crop practices for farmers.
âDifferent communities will need different solutions,â noted Ms. Roberts.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email [email protected]; or follow us on Twitter at @mikesccnt.