On Wednesday, December 14, the City of Milford held a Climate Change Workshop with information presented by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC). Susan Love, Climate and Sustainability Section Lead led the workshop which was open to the public.
“DNREC is assisting Milford with our Comprehensive Plan update,” Rob Pierce, City Planner, explained. “When we develop the plan, we want to take into consideration how climate change could affect Milford over the next decade.” Ms. Love explained that it was important to learn where vulnerable populations were in Milford in order to create a better comprehensive plan.
Ms. Love explained that there are areas of the state where the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has not gotten it right when it comes to flooding,” Ms. Love said. “There are often small areas where there is frequent or nuisance flooding that may not appear on some floodplain maps. For that reason, we need input from the people who know those areas best, the people who actually live here.”
“Delaware began working on sea rise as far back as 2008,” Ms. Love said. “We worked with state and local agencies and governments to address climate change in order to get ahead of the curve. If we fail to take note and understand climate change today, we could build things today that may not be adequate by 2030 or 2040.”
According to Ms. Love, there are three primary impacts to climate change. Increasing temperatures affect human health and cause air quality issues. The elderly and the low-income population are the most affected by rising temperatures as many of them do not have air conditioning. Higher temperatures also cause an increase in asthmatic attacks and other illnesses.
“In 2015, there were 25 days over 90 degrees in Delaware,” Ms. Love said. “Using modeling data, we have determined that by 2040, there will be 45 days above 90 degrees. But even worse, it is anticipated that there will be 15 degrees above 95 degrees and at least three above 100 degrees. We do not live in Arizona, so this heat also comes with humidity. Our homes are not built to handle this type of heat. There is not adequate ventilation and, in many cases, no air conditioning to manage it.” One of the benefits of rising temperatures, however, is that the growing season is extended.
Heavy precipitation is the second impact of climate change. Ms. Love says that there has already been a slight uptick in precipitation in Delaware. Heavy precipitation causes issues which are extremely dangerous to public safety due to its potential to damage infrastructure and homes as well as the interruption of transportation. Heavy precipitation also contributes to the final impact which is sea level rise.
According to the 100-year floodplain map, Milford has many areas in the downtown area that have a one percent risk of flooding each year. However, FEMA maps do not take into consideration future development which can have an effect on drainage and other things that may impact sea levels.
“Research indicates that we could see a sea-level rise of one to one-and-half feet by 2050,” Ms. Love said. “This means the Mispillion River will get wider and wider as the sea rises. Milford is looking at a lot of expansion downtown so this needs to be taken into consideration before that expansion.” Ms. Love said that Delaware was one of the first states to require agencies to begin taking steps related to climate change.
City Manager Eric Norenberg said that one of the issues facing Milford was the need for public transportation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said that this is a constant request from citizens, especially in vulnerable populations.
“The elderly and the poor have no way to get to places because we don’t have adequate public transportation,” Mr. Norenberg said. “It also means that there are more cars on the road, emitting emissions, because those who live outside of downtown must travel for work, shopping and recreation.” Ms. Love said that this was a common complaint among small towns.
One of the ways to address this issue, Ms. Love said, was to create areas where people can live, work, eat, drink and play. She said that a push for rural development increases the need for transportation as people must get to work and get to the stores.
“Mixed-use developments in downtown areas are an excellent way to reduce those emissions,” Ms. Love said. “When people can walk to everything they need, it is extremely helpful to the environment. Cities really need to look at options like that when they develop plans. The decisions cities make today will affect the town for decades which is why including climate change in any plans is a critical requirement.”
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