Hilton Head Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette
May 9, 2015
By ERIN MOODY
It’s no longer a question of if the sea level is rising, according to a group of researchers working with the city of Beaufort and town of Port Royal.
Rather, the questions are, when will water rise over roads and onto property? And which areas will be hit first?
“There are two things that are fact,” said Chris Marsh, executive director of The LowCountry Institute and a member of the Beaufort/Port Royal Sea Level Rise Task Force.
“One, that sea level is rising, and two, that the rate of rise is increasing.”
The group made presentations last week before Port Royal and Beaufort councils, seeking additional support and guidance, as task force members create educational materials and consider solutions.
“This is what ought to be going on in Charleston,” said Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce and part of the task force. “This is what ought to be going on in Myrtle Beach. This is critical for the coastal communities to see how vulnerable we are and how we need to become more resilient.”
Since 1965, the sea level has risen about 6 inches, Marsh said. According to a chart in the task force’s presentation, a 1-foot rise would cover 2 percent of Beaufort and 1 percent of Port Royal, not including Parris Island. That jumps to 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively, with a 3-foot rise.
At 6 feet, the maximum calculated, 22 percent of Beaufort and 23 percent of Port Royal would be covered. At that level, only 20 percent of Parris Island would be dry.
The task force has identified the first places that would be under water, including areas north and south of the head of Battery Creek, The Point neighborhood, downtown Beaufort, the Beaufort County Airport, the Mossy Oaks neighborhood, the Southside Park area, the Cypress Wetlands, the Port of Port Royal strip, and The Sands beach.
“We’ve identified the problem, and now we need to go back and start studying it and seeing what other places have done and see what works,” Knapp said.
Both councils indicated support for the task force to work with public works departments, and Beaufort officials suggested members talk with neighborhood groups. Starting planning now is critical so the municipalities will be poised to apply for grants for improvements, Knapp said.
“If communities don’t do the planning, when the feds put up a pot of money, they won’t be ready to be there at the table,” he said.
Some responses to a rising sea level are less drastic than others. A road or causeway likely to be flooded could be raised a foot when being repaired or repaved. Zoning maps could be reconfigured to focus development on higher land.
It’s all part of long-range planning, Marsh said.
“Municipalities are looking at things at 50 to 100 years out,” he said
For more information on this task force, click here.