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In Va., the natural and man-made share the risk from rising seas

Published: Thursday, June 7, 2012

The waters of Virginia's salt marshes are on the rise, killing off the trees and other plants that inhabit the area's higher ground.

That, in turn, threatens the surrounding ecosystem, because fish, oysters and crabs depend on the marsh grass for food.

"These are just the early warning signs of what's coming," said avian ecologist Bryan Watts.

Ancient geological forces are causing the land to literally sink, while the amount of water in the oceans is increasing because of melting glaciers and thermal expansion.

As a result, not just the salt marshes but the whole low-lying coastal area -- including several towns -- is at extreme risk from flooding.

About 5 to 10 percent of the lowest-lying neighborhoods of the city of Norfolk are subject to heavy flooding during storms. City planners do not currently recommend that any areas be abandoned to the tide, but that prognosis could change in 50 years, experts say.

Norfolk spends around $6 million a year to elevate roads, improve drainage and help homeowners raise their houses to keep their ground floors dry, according to Assistant City Manager Ron Williams (Daniel Nasaw,  BBC News, June 5). -- NM

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


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