[LTE] Ocean State must face reality of rising shores

Ocean State must face reality of rising shores
By Rep. Lauren H. Carson and Rep. Terri Cortvriend 

You may have heard about the Charlestown man who is suing the town of South Kingstown and one of its police officers over his arrest in June on a trespassing charge while he was collecting seaweed along a beach.

The charge was dismissed, but the act itself was, in part, intended to call attention to unresolved questions about shoreline access here in Rhode Island, a right enshrined in our state constitution. A 1982 Supreme Court ruling attempted to clarify the issue by saying the public’s right ends at the mean high-tide line, but since that line is a calculation of averages over an 18.6 year cycle, there’s no way for a beachgoer to identify it.

Further plicating matters is that the line will continually move inland as sea level rises, most of the time gradually, but at times heaving large chunks off dunes and other coastal features. With sea rise, property owners and members of the public whose shoreline access is constitutionally guaranteed will continue losing ground.

After Hurricane Sandy destroyed properties along the coasts of New York and New Jersey, there was an uptick in discussion about whether some particularly at-risk coastal properties should even be rebuilt. Many were, in fact, abandoned there, because increasingly violent weather events and rising seas have rendered them too much of a risk for repeated loss.

As much as we value the right of landowners, there may well be properties in our state, too, that are similarly unjustifiable risks for flooding, destruction and even loss of life.

As the Ocean State, we should be much more proactive when it es to resiliency along our shores. We should be exploring the actual risk to each coastal munity and each property using up-to-date technology that models expected risks. We must continue to train our municipal planning and zoning boards on the risks of sea rise so they have the tools they need to make sound decisions that do not jeopardize property investments and keep the shoreline open to the pubic under their constitutional rights. 

There’s little doubt that in general, homeowners are less than ideally prepared for flood risks, particularly the increasing risks associated with rising seas in the ing decades. Only about 15,000 Rhode Island properties in the flood zones carry flood insurance, and only those with mortgages are actually required to have it. Those with enough cash to purchase a beach home without a mortgage aren’t. While they may have the means to risk property destruction in the event of a major disaster, are they putting public assets and people’s lives at risk?

The risk isn’t limited to private property. Doubtlessly, many state and municipal assets are also located in areas that are already prone to flooding, or whose risk is increasing. Stewards of public resources have a responsibility to understand and defend those assets from potential damage, and must face the reality that the most prudent step might be to move them elsewhere.

Our state needs a more robust action plan for protecting public and private properties from the ever-increasing risk of coastal flooding, and that plan must include an accounting of where the high-tide line is, and how it is projected to move. 

The creation of this plan should include an audit of properties to determine what the real risks are, and it should also bring in real estate professionals, insurers and lenders, because they help determine the price of ownership of such properties, and should be sure that those prices accurately reflect the real cost of ownership, including potential destruction.

The Ocean State must face the fact that the more of our state is, indeed, being part of the ocean with each passing year. Leaders and property owners must take much more concrete steps to predict the encroachment and protect our assets from it.

Rep. Lauren H. Carson is a Democrat who represents District 75 in Newport. Rep. Terri Cortvriend is a Democrat who represents District 72 in Portsmouth and Middletown.

Aquidneck Island Emergency Preparedness Fair Nov. 9

There will be an Emergency Preparedness Fair on Saturday, Nov 9 from 9am-noon at the Gaudet Middle School in Middletown with displays and representatives from local and state agencies to help answer questions and help plan for the unexpected. There will be emergency vehicles on hand for the kids, and representatives from all three island munities (including local emergency management organizations that are always seeking volunteers!)

Click image to embiggen.


Eighteen years

Heaven/is falling
The angels/lie on sidewalks in the rain.
The serpent/calling
Up from the lost world/buried deep within our brain.
And the saints have piled up in the streets
Their sacred blood staining the sheets
Their halos and bones have been sold
Pried loose before the bodies were cold
And the Rainbow disappears with the dawn
And there's nothing left to carry us on
And there is no salvation to be found
Now that Heaven's underground.

Darkness/descending
Unending/as the chaos runs its course.
We grind on/pretending
Nothing/left us but remorse.
And the voices that speak in our dreams
Offer forts as cold as they seem
As faces fade off into noise
And the lost take the Hand that destroys
And there are no stories left to tell
Now that Earth inhabits Hell

Bridge
It's forever
and it's worse than it appears.
This brave new world
is just the sum of all your fears.
And each day
follows senseless on the last.
With no way
out of the demon haunted past...
(Spoken: "Dingir.Pazuzu Qatu Dingir.Ishtar")

The Heroes/are dead now
Their bodies/scattered ashes in the deep.
The Prophet/unread now
In the sound and the fury of reason's final sleep.
And all along the roads to the Dome
the dead appear to carry us home
and the angels have begun now to rise
their screaming held back in the skies
and the world is just the walls of a cave...
As we look up the sides of the grave...
And there is no salvation to be found
Now that Heaven's underground

Ahh oooh
Ahh oooh
Ahh oooh