CREDIT: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Massachusetts is going to start spending some serious coin to prepare for sea level rise and flooding brought by coastal storms.
In an appearance today at the New England Aquarium, Gov. Deval Patrick announced that the state will allocate more than $50 million on measures to protect against sea level rise and destructive storms like Hurricane Sandy, the deadly and costly 2012 superstorm that caused $65 billion in damages in the U.S. About a fifth of the money will go to Massachusetts cities and towns to bolster seawalls and other coastal structures, but the bulk will help communities and utilities harden electrical power systems and other infrastructure. Included in the plan is a requirement for the state transportation department to do a vulnerability assessment of its facilities and to prepare adaptation plans.
“I believe that we have a generational responsibility to address the multiple threats of climate change,” said Governor Patrick. “Massachusetts needs to be ready, and our plan will make sure that we are.”
Massachusetts officials say they have been spurred into action by a series of destructive storms in recent years, including Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene.
“If Sandy had come a little further north or the timing on that had been a bit different, the impacts would have been dramatic,” for Massachusetts, state energy and environmental affairs secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. told the Boston Globe. “We can’t just go into every single storm and just kind of cross our fingers.”
Like other eastern seaboard states, Massachusetts faces an increasingly worrisome future as sea levels rise under the impact of climate change and melting sea ice. As the New York Times reported today: “Much of the population and economy of the country is concentrated on the East Coast, which the accumulating scientific evidence suggests will be a global hot spot for a rising sea level over the coming century.”
It is expected that global ocean levels will increase by three to five feet and possibly more by the end of the century.
“Scientists say the East Coast will be hit harder,” the Times reports, in part because “even as the seawater rises, the land in this part of the world is sinking.”
Climate Progress reported last September on how those twin developments are already impacting peoples’ lives in Norfolk, VA, which offers a dramatic snapshot of what awaits other east coast communities.