Or, people who live on an island shouldn’t ignore rising waters…
If you stand on the shoreline of Westport, you’ll be standing 7 to 8.5 inches closer to the water than you would have been 100 years ago. If you’re standing at the water’s edge, your feet will likely be under water in years to come.
Investigating the rising tide
According to the Maine Geological Survey, the state’s average sea level increase in the last 100 years has been 8 to 8.5 inches – in Portland, ME (where there has been a tide gauge since 1912) there has been “only” a 7.3 inch increase. Maine scientists predict that the sea level will increase 2 feet over the next hundred years, which most scientists agree is a middle-of-the-road projection based on the current incremental height increases in coastal tides.
To illustrate the potential impact of a rising water level, nature sends an occasional storm our way with “super-sized” storm surges. The Patriot’s Day Storm in 2007 measured a 2.5 foot storm surge in Portland, and the “100-year” storm of 1978 measured a 4.2 foot storm surge in Portland.
Roger, as Director of Westport Island Emergency Management Assistance (EMA), has been appointed to Lincoln County’s Sea Level Rise – Coastal Hazards Project. This project will be using an aerial topographic-survey map done last year using “LIDAR” technology (Light Detection and Ranging, a laser measurement device). LIDAR maps are accurate within 6 inches and include layering details, such as infrastructure and buildings that will allow modeling of the impact of 2-, 3-, and 6-foot storm surges — kind of a create your own disaster movie, so you can figure out how to outsmart a super-sized tidal surge.
Information gleaned from this project will help Lincoln County towns plan and prepare for “the storms of today, and the tides of tomorrow.” According to Robert Faunce, Lincoln County Planner, vulnerable areas in Westport include: low-lying coastal roads, causeways, and shore land structures.
Data from the Sea Level Rise Project will help to target areas that can be “hardened” against future damage or destruction. Target hardening strategies for higher tide levels might include: expanding road culverts; raising roads; relocating water treatment and purification equipment; installing breakwaters; and revising planning ordinances for new structures. Additionally, as of November 2011, Westport residents can now purchase federally-backed flood insurance to protect their homes.
For more information, see the Lincoln County Sea Level Rise — Coastal Hazard Study