Let’s be proactive, not reactive
This Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of the Storm of ’62, one of the most destructive weather events ever to hit Delaware. As shown in historic photos, beachfront property was leveled by the sheer force of nature.
More than a half-century later, the Delaware coast remains at risk. We’ve luckily dodged some big storms, but the danger will never go away. In fact, the likelihood we will see another storm of that magnitude in our lifetime is increasing every year, as climate change continues to make hurricanes and storm events more powerful.
So what’s our defense? If another storm like Hurricane Sandy rolls up the East Coast, there’s not much that can be done.
However, measures can be taken today to benefit future generations. At a recent meeting of Lewes’ resiliency committee, officials from Coral Gables, Fla., offered insight into their resiliency fund. That community of 50,000 is equitably contributing to a fund that will build to $100 million in principal alone by 2040. The money is not to be touched until that time, and will be used to fund permanent solutions to adapt to sea-level rise. The solutions don’t exist now, but officials hope they will in 20 years. The community also maintains a healthy cash reserve to fund disaster relief and recovery efforts, as it needed to do following Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Protecting our coast is not about protecting multimillion-dollar homes; it’s about protecting the state as a whole. Tourism alone contributed an estimated $3.7 billion to our state’s GDP in 2019. The tourism industry is the fourth-largest private employer in the state. Its economic impact is significant, and it’s worth protecting.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report released in February updated sea-level rise projections. Scientists are now saying sea levels could rise as much as 10 to 12 inches by 2050, equal to what’s occurred over the last 100 years. This report underlines the importance of planning ahead to mitigate – or adapt to – the effects of climate change. Our municipal, county and state governments should follow the example of other communities such as Coral Gables. We need to be proactive, not reactive, before it’s too late.