Beaufort Community Discusses Rising Sea Levels in Historic District

WSAV-Channel 3 News, Savannah, GA

August 25, 2014

BEAUFORT, S.C. –When sea levels rise, scientists expect low-lying areas in parts of coastal cities to go underwater. That’s why community meetings are underway in the Lowcountry, to strategize how places like Beaufort can plan for their historical district to flood. 

The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce brought in data and maps that show low areas like their waterfront district overcome with water as the sea levels rise. Those who attended Monday morning’s meeting hosted by Mayor Billy Keyserling asked “What can we do to save this beautiful town?”

After kayaking the Beaufort River along the sea wall of the historic district, Kim Gundler realizes the rising sea levels could hurt her hometown. 

“When I look at the edge of the historic district, I kayak there. I lead kayak tours, and we kayak there at high tide, and these houses are inches above high tide.

“I am very concerned about our beautiful, national historic landmark district, which as you can see from the slides, is one of the first places that bears the brunt of this sea level rise,” Gundler says. 

The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce presented scientific evidence from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) of how parts of Beaufort could look as glaciers melt, raising sea levels from two to six feet in an unknown number of years. 

“The biggest industry we have in this state is tourism. Most of our tourism industry along our coast is small business,” Frank Knapp, CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce says. 

Mayor Keyserling hopes the city can prepare for whatever happens, “should we have to make some physical changes, should there be areas where there is some prevention. Public education is really what this is all about.”

Gundler suggests another sea wall, whatever can protect the place she loves. “You know, I don’t know what we can do individually in our backyards to help this. You know, I think it’s going to take a much larger effort,” she says. 

The chamber says they do not know when sea levels will begin to rise. In the meantime, Keyserling hopes a citizen task force can come together to plan for when they do. 

The next Beaufort County community meeting will be held at the St. Helena Branch Library on Tuesday at 1 p.m. 


View the video here: Interactive Maps


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