(The below editorial addresses the work of the City of Beaufort/Port Royal Sea Level Rise Task Force, part of SCBARS–a project of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce)
Hilton Head Island Packet
July 18, 2015
By ISLAND PACKET
The pond off of Federal Street as seen on Sunday afternoon in Downtown Beaufort.
Northern Beaufort County leaders got some good advice last week from a task force looking at sea level rise.
The problem is not urgent, they were told, but planning is important.
In coastal Beaufort County, there’s not a moment to lose in addressing the issue.
Partisan politics and special interest groups must not be allowed to compound this complex problem. All municipalities and counties along the coastline must be figuring out how they will handle future flooding that today’s statistics show is coming.
If global sea levels rise an average of 4 feet in the next 100 years, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sees as possible, the impact on Beaufort County will be immense.
Climate Central, a nonprofit group tracking climate change and sea level rise, produced maps last summer to help communities like ours see the potential problems.
“More than 800 square miles of land lie less than 4 feet above the high-tide line in South Carolina,” the group reported. “Some $24 billion in property value and 54,000 homes — mostly in Charleston and Beaufort counties — sit on this area. More than one in six homes are threatened in the city of Charleston, more than one in four on Hilton Head Island, and more than one in two on Edisto Island and in Folly Beach.
“The state has more than 1,200 miles of roads on land below 4 feet, plus 13 schools, 33 houses of worship and 76 EPA-listed sites such as hazardous waste dumps and sewage plants.”
This information tells bluntly why the task force advising the city of Beaufort and town of Port Royal is necessary.
The task force does not have the answers. But its members are discussing potential options, from bulkheads to floodgates. Its next step is to meet with Beaufort’s neighborhood associations.
Every street in the county needs this type of scrutiny. Everyone in the county needs to be part of the discussion. Ongoing, long-term plans for gated communities, public safety divisions and municipalities need to be informed by this data.
Many other communities worldwide are in our same boat, and ideas can be shared.
But everybody in Beaufort County needs to be paying attention and seeing this global issue at the neighborhood level.