Powerful New Tool Gives Real Estate Owners, Developers, Planners & Government Officials a Detailed View of the Threats Posed by Sea Level Rise

One of the greatest challenges for coastal real estate owners, developers, planners and government officials is acquiring a detailed understanding of the complicated challenges sea level rise flooding poses to their communities.

A new tool introduced today by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to defending the environment, aims to deliver a clear view of the threats sea level rise poses to coastal communities in the Southeast through the use of an interactive mapping tool. “The project’s goal is to show citizens and decision-makers how the coast is changing,” the SELC said in a news release, “and how proposed infrastructure projects like highways, neighborhoods, and government or industrial facilities will fare as the water keeps rising and floods get worse.”

Visitors to The Changing Coast website will find an interactive map with overlays that enable them to visualize: 1. The flooding that will occur in their community as sea level rises; 2. Development projects that will be impacted by higher seas; 3. The locations of toxic Superfund sites that could contaminate neighborhoods and water supplies if they’re flooded by ocean water; 4. The locations of socially vulnerable populations who are most at-risk from sea level rise flooding and storm surges; 5. Wetland areas and floodplains that need to be protected from development to act as sea level rise floodwater buffer zones; and 6. Areas that are most at-risk from more powerful storm surges resulting global-warming-fueled stronger hurricanes and tropical storms.

Among the real-world examples of areas where the interactive mapping tool could assist real estate owners, government officials, planners and developers in coastal communities, the SELC offered the following:

  • “A proposed 9,000-acre housing development in Charleston could flood now with just a Category 1 hurricane. And rising seas could put parts of the development under water before the mortgages are paid off.”
  • “The roads leading to the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge in North Carolina could be flooded on sunny days in the future if sea level climbs just two feet, rendering the span useless.”
  • “A 21-million-ton pile of toxic coal ash on the banks of the Mobile River in Alabama could likewise be threatened by a Category 2 hurricane, and that threat only increases as sea levels continue to rise. A breach could spread toxic ash into the river, through the Tensaw Delta, and into Mobile Bay.”

“The goal is to help guide decisions for the future, and to plan smart strategies to protect what exists now,” said Chris DeScherer, and SELC senior attorney.

The SELC’s interactive map is a valuable source of information that real estate owners, buyers and agents in the Southeast should use when considering property in coastal communities currently experiencing sea level rise flooding or at-risk of experiencing it in the near future. It would be wonderful if this powerful tool became available in other parts of the country.

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