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One English Town’s Innovative Response To Sea Level Rise

April 21, 2014

Full Article at http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/04/09/3422063/england-town-sea-level-rise/

BY JOANNA M. FOSTER

Vast stretches of the Somerset Levels, an expanse of coastal plains and wetlands in southwest England, have spent much of the winter underwater. At the peak of the crisis, some 11,500 hectares (28,420 acres) was submerged as violent storms brought “biblical” deluges week after week, for months on end. Along Britain’s scenic coastline, 80 mph gales and tidal surges have left cliffs crumbling into the rough sea, beaches and sand dunes eroded, sea defenses breached, and shorelines and harbors damaged beyond recognition.

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All along the coast of the U.K. and in other coastal communities around the world, the threat of sea level rise and more violent storms is forcing towns and governments to make difficult choices — build higher, build stronger, or retreat. In the U.S., both strategies are being explored. Famous for its levy system, New Orleans is now also incorporating open spaces designed to flood into city planning, following designs pioneered by the Dutch. For its part, much of the New Jersey coast, devastated by Superstorm Sandy, is choosing to rely almost entirely on bigger artificial sand dunes to hold the ocean back as towns attempt to rebuild right where they were before the hurricane hit.

The U.K.’s Environment Agency is experimenting with a kind of coordinated retreat for the hardest to defend coastal areas, a tactic referred to as managed coastal realignment. It’s a controversial approach for a relatively small island nation. But the recent wild winter storms are starting to change attitudes — strategic surrender suddenly seems like it may be the smart, sustainable solution.

Full Article at http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/04/09/3422063/england-town-sea-level-rise/

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