A Higher Tide: Planning for sea-level rise

Planning: The American Planning Association
August/September 2015

By Madeline Bodin

THE BLUE TAPE IS EVERYWHERE in coastal South Carolina. It’s on the brass door handle of the Palmetto Hammock and Resort Shoppe in Charleston, and it’s on the window of the Lowcountry Bistro next door. In fact, blue tape is plastered on the exteriors of businesses all the way from Charleston to North Myrtle Beach.

Discussions about sea-level rise, like other aspects of climate change, are difficult. Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, wanted to make sea-level rise real for people. The blue tape distributed by the chamber’s South Carolina Businesses Acting on Rising Seas project marks the worst-case scenario: the high-tide mark in 2100 under the highest sea-level rise predictions, a six-foot rise above the current high tide.

In Charleston’s low-lying Market District, the tape marks a spot nearly five feet above street level. And with one step up to reach the door, that means high tide may one day reach door-handle height at the hammock shop.

Knapp found that even in a “red state” like South Carolina, about half the small business owners that his team contacted were concerned about the effect of sea-level rise.


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