Sea level rise to have big impact locally, commission told

Bill Nachman - Posted on Jul 08, 2010 - 05:03 PM

One of the places on the East Coast where sea level rise will have the biggest impact is Southeastern Virginia, the head of a non-profit environmental group reported to the Gloucester County Planning Commission Thursday night.

In an interview prior to the commission meeting in the colonial courthouse, William A. "Skip" Stiles Jr., executive director of Norfolk-based Wetlands Watch, said that the Virginia Commission on Climate Change, on which he served in 2008, predicts that coastal communities should plan for 2.3 feet of relative sea level rise over the next 100 years.

According to Stiles, sea level has risen in this region about 1.5 feet since 1900. Put another way, if the sea level rises one foot at flat Virginia Beach, that would result in a loss of 100-180 feet of beach.

Locally, the sea level rise impact would be determined in part by the slope of the land, Stiles said, with some areas such as the Guinea marshes probably faring a bit better because the marsh grasses help buffer the sea level impact.

In a memorandum to the commission, planning director Anne Ducey-Ortiz said that "much of the attraction of the ‘Life of the Land Worth Living’ is our beautiful waterfront, the majority of which is privately owned.

"County decision and policy makers will be faced with difficult issues regarding some of these areas as they plan for our community’s future," she said.

In other business at the meeting, Ducey-Ortiz reported total housing unit gain of 108 for the 12 months that ended May 31. In that period, 107 single-family houses were added with manufactured housing unit gain of one (35 with 34 of them replacements).

Total housing values based on building cost estimate reported on building permits was $12,808,000 for single-family houses in May, with median value of $125,000. Total value of manufactured homes in May was $91,478, Ducey-Ortiz said, with median value that month of $39,473.