NOAA’s Carolina RISA team: Climate-smart communities make better investments

NOAA’s Carolina RISA team: Climate-smart communities make better investments


Sarah Watson: Charleston has a great deal of just inherent risk in the fact that where it’s located. It’s in the southeast. It’s on the water and it’s basically already at sea level. The flooding in the Charleston area isn’t just from the tide. It’s from heavy rain. It’s from water coming downstream from heavy rains inland. We do get a king tide and if it rains during that time it means that the water can’t drain off the streets and so it sits there and that has a big deal of impact to traffic. It causes our traffic issues that are already pretty severe to get much worse. In twenty fifteen we had thirty five days of title flooding, which was at the time a record In 2015 we had thirty-five days of title flooding, which was at the time a record but then in 2016 we had fifty days of title flooding. If you look at the projections for how that’s going to increase, based on the National Climate Assessment by 2050 we could have more than one-hundred and-fifty days of tidal flooding a year and by 2100 every day out of the year could have title flooding. Eric Lutz: Just a quarter of an inch of sea level rise it doesn’t sound like much but when you spread that across the island every high tide you’re talking about a quarter inch of water coming up beyond what you already had ten years ago. It’s a tremendous impact on flooding. Most of the residents were not thinking much about flooding until Joaquin back in 2015. People had water in their homes up to their knees in areas that they never really flooded before. The streets flooded to the point where we had people kayaking up and down Ashley Avenue. CISA does a number of things, including helping provide technical assistance and organizational assistance. One of the things we also help with is helping develop and occasionally deliver what we call community engagement and stakeholder engagement where we go out in the communities and carefully design processes to help people identify what the risks are and then help them understand what the solutions are. One of the projects that CISA is working on with Sea Grant is doing a different type of model that incorporates, not just sea level rise and tidal flooding but also storm water flooding, rain coming off the land and into the water from various discharge points. Eric Lutz: As we move forward citizens elected officials at the Sea Grant consortium and CISA can collectively help deal with sea level rise that we seem to be faced with. We need to keep working together to try and solve the problems that come. Laura Cabiness: I’m an engineer. I need to rely on the climate scientists to provide that kind of information to me and I think we just need to get realistic about what we’re seeing here. Folks in Charleston know that we’re flooding here more often from sea level rise than we have in the past and we really don’t need to debate why that’s happening but we do need to address it and if we wait too long it’s going to be very expensive. The information CISA and Sea Grant has online has really helped us to illustrate to folks what we expect to see in the future. When we’re working on our capital projects we’re also using the information that CISA’s providing and Sea Grant to help us make decisions about where will the sea levels be several years from now and into the future fifty years from now. And we actually created a sea level rise strategy in which we use that information to take a look fifty years into the future and say, we know that we at least want to plan for two and a half foot sea level rise within the next fifty years. Charleston’s very fortunate right now to have a very strong economy and with that comes a lot of development that’s happening throughout the city. Some of that’s happening in flood plains where we’re not certain that that’s the best place to have that occurring. The batteries about one hundred years old and it’s about a mile long and it’s in somewhat of a state of disrepair so we’ve been planning to do the work for awhile but now with our sea level rise study and with other information that we’ve gotten from CISA and NOAA we’re planning to build that wall two and a half feet taller. What I’ve seen after three floods in two years is that our citizens they’re very supportive of a program that’s going to minimize flooding. We’ve been very lucky that they have approved tax increases and storm water fees and allow us to do the improvements that we’re making and I believe that they want us to do more. Sarah Watson: A lot of times people think that climate change and sea level rise are really political issues and the thing is here it’s not because we realize it’s happening now and those impacts are occurring now and that if we still want to be the kind of region that we are now in the future we have to start doing things and start finding the solutions. Ambient Music.

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