Letter: Let nature and the market take their course
An article on the front page of your most recent edition of the Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal, citing a VIMS study, warns of sea level rise and exhorts the state to act quickly to counter it. While it is true that the sea level is slowly rising and the Tidewater area is subsiding, it has been doing so for a very long time. Whether one believes that it is the result of man-caused global warming or from natural solar cycles; if one believes that it is rising one foot or three by year 2100, it really doesn’t matter. Nothing Gloucester or Mathews can do will stop it. So what is to be done?
Although the article does not propose specific countermeasures, it does note several that have been tried in various parts of the world and some that have not yet been. The one thing they all share is that they are expensive—the kind of expensive that could bankrupt our counties and put significant financial burden on the Commonwealth.
As the waters rise, waterfront properties and associated infrastructure will become increasingly prone to storm damage. This is just a fact of life. Over the long haul, these properties and facilities will eventually have to be abandoned. Over the shorter term they can be elevated, have protective barriers built or have other remedies applied. But even as we worry over existing at-risk properties, new homes and facilities continue to be built and, of course, will face the same hazards as the existing ones.
To my way of thinking (and I am a waterfront homeowner) it is not up to the government to save me from my choice to build in a hazardous location. That is on me. We must take responsibility for the life decisions we make. So I am very much against instituting costly government actions to save me and others facing the rising waters.
Ultimately, I believe the problem will be self-resolving, with or without government remedies. As time passes and the waters rise, insurance companies will stop writing policies for properties at risk (they already have in some areas), which, in turn, will curtail banks offering mortgages on such properties. New construction in flood hazard zones will cease, except for those few willing to self-finance and take the risk. The government should let nature and the market take their course and not try to forestall the inevitable at great expense to all.
In a century, it will all be history.