I’ve watched one tide turn since we started this newspaper almost 10 years ago: Where there once was a reluctance to utter the words “sea level rise” from the dais, the phrase now is part of the municipal vernacular during discussions on building regulations and comprehensive planning.
It’s about time.
Our larger cities have begun to hire sustainability officers, and most of our barrier island municipalities have identified at least one official to participate in regional groups looking for solutions to the rising waters in our backyards. It’s heartening to see this progress.
But planning for the inevitable will take time, so what we can do now? Simple: maintenance.
The first leaks in our current island drainage plans come when we don’t pay attention to our infrastructure. All municipalities between the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway should build infrastructure maintenance into the budget plans they will discuss over the summer. Residents should demand it. Local Realtors should demand it. Coastal businesses should demand it — especially builders.
We all know the value of property in this area. If we don’t act soon, we stand to watch those very attractive values sink as the water rises. Taxpayers expect roads, sea walls, outflow valves, swales and drainage systems to be regularly checked and maintained.
The fact that they often haven’t been is deeply concerning. Discovering that a neighborhood has a problem only when the streets flood is unacceptable.
Now is the time to budget for maintenance and repairs. Fix the existing problems. Enforce the building codes that are already on the books. Make sure that new construction doesn’t have a negative effect on existing drainage systems. And plan for the future.
I don’t think you’ll hear any complaints from the taxpayers.
— Mary Kate Leming,