On Wednesday, May 1, 2013, Milford hosted a meeting of the Sussex County Association of Towns (SCAT) at the Rookery North. SCAT consists of individuals from town leadership, the legislature, city engineers, representatives from government agencies as well as private industry representatives from various towns in Sussex County who represent the interests of each town.
The topic for the evening was “Preparing for Tomorrow’s High Tide: Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment for the State of Delaware,” presented by Susan Love, a planner with Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). Ms. Love explained the need for local towns and state leaders to begin developing a plan to deal with expected sea level rise in Delaware.
“Delaware is leading states in sea level rise planning and development,” Ms. Love explained as she began her presentation. “With flooding and sea level rise in the news on a daily basis, the problem is becoming a prime issue for local governments.
According to projections made by Delaware Coastal Programs Project members, sea levels are expected to rise by 13 inches over the next 100 years. Although this seems like a small amount, the damage caused by a sea level rise at that level could be significant. In addition to the potential rise in sea levels, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) revised their flood plane maps, and changes to the federal flood insurance program will have even more effect on flood prone areas.
“Incremental increases in sea level will increase flooding risks,” Ms. Love explained. “Some municipalities may already be seeing flooding in areas that never flooded before, and a reduced capacity for water to recede when there is flooding. Unfortunately, this is not simply a problem for coastal towns, like Rehoboth and Bethany. Even inland towns such as Milford and Seaford can expect impacts from rising sea levels.”
Milford City Manager Richard Carmean said that before the presentation by Ms. Love, Milford leadership was unaware of the threat that sea level rise posed to the town.
“Right now, we don’t have a plan for the increase in sea level simply because we were unaware it existed,” Mr. Carmean explained. “However, now that we know it is possible, we will begin looking at ways we may be able to protect citizens and property from the rising sea levels.”
Ms. Love said there are options available to prepare for rising sea levels before they reach crisis level, and that there could be natural occurring methods that will reduce the expected sea level rise.
“It is possible that marshes are growing sediment, and in some areas bulkheads are helping reduce flooding,” Ms. Love said. “Other methods include not placing people in at-risk areas by reducing development near flood planes, protecting shorelines with dunes, dikes and bulkheads, or moving people away from the coast during times of high tide.”