Coastal Flooding Becoming Urgent National Concern; More Resources Needed to Plan and Prepare for Ongoing Floods as Sea Level Rises
Majority of candidates come from coastal states including Clinton, O'Malley, Bush, Carson, Christie, Cruz and more
Editor’s note: Listen to press conference audio recording here
HAMPTON, N.H. (October 24, 2015)– Coastal flooding is growing more dangerous and costly for people and businesses along America’s shorelines, according to a bipartisan group of local elected officials who spoke at a national summit on the issue. The Rising Tides summit brought more than 35 mayors and local elected officials to Hampton, N.H., to discuss strategies to cope with increasingly severe coastal flooding amplified by sea level rise.
The summit was the first of its kind to focus exclusively on coastal flooding and sea level rise, and included more Republican than Democrat elected officials. At a press conference, elected officials called on presidential candidates to address coastal flooding and sea level rise that affect coastal shoreline communities, which are home to 123 million Americans and account for 45 percent of U.S. GDP. Presidential candidates from coastal states include Secretary Hillary Clinton, Governor Martin O'Malley, Governor Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Governor Chris Christie, Senator Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Governor Jim Gilmore, Senator Lindsey Graham, Governor Bobby Jindal, Governor George Pataki, Senator Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.
“Coastal flooding and sea level rise are economic issues because of the adverse impacts to homes, businesses, insurance rates, and livelihoods.” said Jeff Collier, mayor of Dauphin Island, Ala. “This is a major challenge for the next administration whether Democrat or Republican. The costs associated with coastal flooding are increasing and our communities are going to need help coping with these challenges. I am eager to network with other elected officials on ways to combat coastal flooding now and in the future. This is a rural issue, a suburban issue, and an urban issue – none of us can afford to wait for the next crisis.”
The summit featured local mayors and elected officials from 18 of 23 coastal states seeking strategies to cope with increasingly severe coastal flooding and stem negative consequences on businesses, city infrastructure and residents. In 2010, economic activity in shoreline counties accounted for more than 66 million jobs and $3.4 trillion in wages. Coastal recreation and tourism account for roughly 85 percent of the U.S.’s annual tourism related revenue.
“At the local level, coastal flooding is a non-partisan issue,” said Steven Abrams, commissioner, Palm Beach County, Fla. “Local elected officials are the first responders but it’s essential to bring this to national attention because we rely on our federal officials for their help and their support. The coastal flooding issues we are facing are not just public safety issues but significant economic issues in terms of property values and insurance rates. My constituents are deeply concerned about sea level rise and want to see an aggressive response at all levels of government.”
“The water that’s coming in your neighbor’s door does not care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat,” said Chris Stolle, delegate, Norfolk-Virginia Beach, VA. “This is not just an economic issue, it’s not just a public safety issue, it’s not just a risk to life and property, it’s a strategic issue. I represent Hampton Roads, home of the world’s largest naval base. It’s not just the infrastructure of our military bases that are at risk in these coastal areas, it’s also the ability of our sailors, our marines, our soldiers and our airmen to get to those facilities to defend the nation. It’s time we stop discussing what we need to do and start taking action to protect our local communities. We as state and local governments need more assistance in doing that from the federal government.”
The summit featured local mayors and elected officials from 18 of 23 coastal states seeking strategies to cope with increasingly severe coastal flooding and stem negative consequences on businesses, city infrastructure and residents. In 2010, economic activity in shoreline counties accounted for more than 66 million jobs and $3.4 trillion in wages. Coastal recreation and tourism account for roughly 85 percent of the U.S.’s annual tourism-related revenue.
“This is a major challenge for the next administration whether Democrat or Republican.” said Jeff Collier, mayor of Dauphin Island, Ala. “The costs associated with coastal flooding are increasing and our communities are going to need help coping with these challenges. I am eager to work with other elected officials on ways to combat coastal flooding now and in the future. This is a rural issue, a suburban issue, and an urban issue – none of us can afford to wait for the next crisis.”
The event comes on the heels of historic flooding in South Carolina and nearly three years after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc across the northeast. This week, many communities up and down the east coast will experience coastal flooding when the highest tide of the year occurs, known as a “king tide.”
“Three years after Hurricane Sandy devastated Hoboken, we are on our way to a more resilient future, but major challenges remain,” said Dawn Zimmer, mayor of Hoboken, N.J. “Federal policies need to change to reflect the unique challenges of urban coastal communities like ours. Every presidential candidate should be looking at this issue. We’re talking about 123 million people. We’re talking about half of our country’s GDP – it’s economics. At this historic moment, we have Republicans and Democrats coming together and saying we have to really push for this to be a part of the national conversation. Regardless of party, presidential candidates should take a stand and tell us what they’ll do to address coastal flooding and sea level rise.”
“We have to move beyond the question ‘is it real.’ It is real. We’re dealing with it on an ongoing basis,” said Donna Holaday, mayor of Newburyport, MA. “This can no longer be a partisan issue. It can’t be a debate. We need to work together, local communities, regional communities, and at a state and federal level, to help all of our communities move forward and be prepared for the next event, which is just around the corner.”
The meeting was hosted by State Senator Nancy Stiles (R - Hampton, NH) and Mayor Robert Lister (D - Portsmouth, NH). Stiles co-sponsored bipartisan legislation in New Hampshire to create a Coastal Risks and Hazards Commission that is working with New Hampshire Seacoast communities to prepare for increased flood risks.
“The insured value of properties in the coastal counties of New Hampshire is over $64 billion. We need to do a better job managing the risks from coastal flooding and storm surge,” said Stiles. “Imagine the trillions of dollars at risk from rising seas across the country when you consider the tens of thousands of miles of US coastline facing increasing flooding. Perhaps some of our candidates who are coming into New Hampshire will begin to talk about this and figure out just how we can do it together.”
“Local officials like us are working on preparedness, security, and protection all the time because water is coming up to our front doors and into our businesses,” said Lister. “This is a big challenge for the next president. No matter where you stand on the issue, it’s clear that costs of coastal flooding are increasing and our communities are going to need help.”
The more than 35 mayors, delegates, and council members in attendance conveyed their concerns directly to Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and representatives from the U.S. Navy, Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Sullivan shared data showing that the occurrence of coastal flooding has increased and is expected to get worse over time as communities grapple with subsidence, erosion, more intense precipitation and rising sea levels.
The Rising Tides 2015 summit is hosted by State Senator Nancy Stiles and Mayor Bob Lister with organizational support from World Resources Institute and Union of Concerned Scientists both non-partisan, 501(c)3 non-profits. www.risingtides2015.com