How should we address sea-level rise?

February 1, 2013

“Statewide [by 2100], between 8 percent and 11 percent of the state’s land area (including wetlands) could be inundated by a sea-level rise of 0.5 meters to 1.5 meters, respectively. Within those potentially inundated areas lie transportation and port infrastructure, historic fishing villages, resort towns, agricultural fields, wastewater treatment facilities and vast stretches of wetlands and wildlife habitat of hemispheric importance.” - From the executive summary of Delaware's Sea-Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment

“Much of the Dutch levee system relies on the understanding that levees require regular maintenance, constant monitoring and a long-term appreciation for how rivers, oceans and storms behave. When these are in place, communities can thrive safely alongside the beauty and convenience of coastal and riverside areas. It's when we fail to remember this that rivers and oceans become destroyers.” - From the HowStuff Works site on the internet.

Delaware’s Dutch roots may emerge as far more relevant to the state’s heritage in the century ahead. In Lewes, those roots are most visibly evident in the architecture of the Zwaanendael Museum. But perhaps more pertinent to the whole sea-level rise discussion are remnants of a Dutch dike built in the mid-1600s just north of New Road’s Canary Creek bridge. That earthen structure more than 350 years old was constructed by people who knew what it meant to live by a sea bringing constant threats.

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Cape Henlopen High School, state officials will present information resulting from several months of research into the potential im­pacts of sea-level rise. They want to hear our thoughts on how we should adapt in the face of these environmental changes in the decades ahead. Should we back off from the sea in strategic retreat mode? Should we get more aggressive, like the Dutch, and protect our coastal resources and farmland with a far more extensive system of dikes, levees and dune construction? Should we do a combination of these strategies, or just take our chances?

The meeting offers a knowledge base for better decisions in the future regarding an issue that is already impacting Delawareans and will do so for at least a century ahead.


  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.

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