Yesterday was a meeting of the Delaware Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee at Kitts Hummock, by Dover.  Their charge is broad:

The Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee is comprised of a representative from each State of Delaware cabinet-level department and representatives from municipal governments, business advocacy organizations and citizen advocacy organizations. Each representative to the Advisory Committee will consult with their agencies and constituent groups regarding sea level rise issues and bring their concerns and needs to the table for discussion and action. The Advisory Committee will ensure that the Adaptation Plan reflects a wide-range of potential solutions to reduce risk to sea level rise impacts, and will ensure that the plan will be useful to their organization’s mission. Members of the Advisory Committee will be strongly encouraged to help implement the recommendations in the Adaptation Plan by continued collaboration with Advisory Committee organizations and others.

“…potential solutions to reduce risk to sea level rise impacts…” but they’re missing the boat in at least one obvious area…

The reality of sea level rise is apparent every time I head up to Delaware City, because Route 9 is underwater, from 1/3 to 2/3 of the southbound lane.  When we headed to Kitts Hummuck (what’s a hummuck?  “It’s like a tussock, but bigger,” Alan says.) and there was water on Route 9 south of Port Penn, too.  Delaware is SO flat, and Port Penn’s development has moved back from water’s edge:

In looking at the draft report, the first thing I noticed was that there was nothing about preparation about how sea level rise would affect utility infrastructure (the love of my life!).  During a break, the DOT rep at the meeting let me know that they’d done a “Vulnerability Study” that addresses that, and here it is:

Delaware Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment

.. and no, there’s nothing about electrical infrastructure, ranging from generation, to transmission, to distribution.  A search shows only one reference to electrical:

Data Collection

In order to conduct an in-depth vulnerability assessment, geographic datasets are necessary. Geographic datasets are a special type of dataset that contains information so that it can be placed on a map. Delaware Coastal Programs staff spent considerable time and effort compiling geographic datasets that could be utilized
with the sea level rise scenario maps to determine the location and numbers of resources at risk from sea
level rise. Datasets like roads, railways and public safety facilities were relatively easy to obtain as they are
maintained and routinely updated by a state or county agency. Many datasets were out of date or lacked
appropriate documentation as to when the data was collected or how it was collected (metadata). A few
datasets were unable to be used for this assessment due to privacy or homeland security concerns (electrical
substations for example). In many other cases, the desired data did not exist or was so out of date that it could
not be used.

Oh my… ummmmmmm… what a bunch ‘o crap!  They need to look at this stuff, and for sure they have access.  They are a government entity doing planning.  EARTH TO MARS — all they have to do is sign a form, and if they don’t want to do that, they can look at google maps.  THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THIS.

Why does it matter whether they consider electrical infrastructure?  Well, electricity is deemed an essential service, and if it’s underwater, they’re gonna have problems, to put it mildly.  Power plants are typically located on water, Indian River is a perfect example, sited on the Indian River Bay, just off the ocean, and about a foot above the water level:

What do they say about the Indian River power plant?  This is it:

The Indian River power plant is the only heavy industrial facility permitted by the Coastal Zone Act in Sussex
County. This facility’s disposal area, shoreline, and intake structures are within areas that will be inundated by sea level rise, but the power plant itself is not within a potential inundation area.

Otherwise, power plants are addressed only in terms of impact of loss of rail service.  Great…

Here’s a photo I took of one of the substations they’re ignoring — took this photo while flying by on Route 9, close to Kitts Hummock.  I saw this substation, there’s no reason they can’t, and when this substation goes underwater, then what?  A state with homes as old as ours should have an understanding of long-term planning (it looks to me that this was built in anticipation of MAPP, it’s huge and has a lot of empty positions:


The only transmission considered is disease transmission.  An example of transmission facilities at issue is the one along Hwy. 1, by Indian River, pictured here where the Bay is on the west (left), the transmission line is immediately adjacent to the southbound lane of Hwy. 1, and the ocean is east of Hwy. 1:


Nuclear is not mentioned, despite the three reactor Salem and Hope Creek plant just across the Delaware Bay.  With sea level rise, it will soon look like Ft. Calhoun:


Here’s what they have to say about pipelines, p. 101 of Vulnerability Assessment — they’re not concerned:

 Underground Pipeline Utilities: This resource includes natural gas and petroleum pipelines. Workgroup
members also initially considered water and sewer pipelines; however, data was unavailable due to privacy and homeland security concerns. Between 4% and 6% of pipeline utilities throughout the state are within an area that could be inundated by sea level rise by the year 2100. While sections of pipeline are exposed in all three counties, the highest concentration is found in New Castle County. The results from the analysis showed that major supply lines will not be affected; however, distribution along with pipeline corrosion may become issues in the future. Due to these considerations, inundation of underground pipeline utilities is of low concern at this time.

Despite the significant omissions, look at all the Delaware organizations that supported it:

Sign on letter of Delaware Enviros

Anyway, then yesterday, they approved the recommendations, with a few minor changes. And those recommendations are not posted — the most recent minutes are from March… sigh…

So rough and quick and dirty review of what they did:

  • Approved the lion’s share of the recommendations;
  • Deleted #17, which was focused on financial assurance to minimize the state’s liability.  GRRRRRR!
  • Approved #35 which shifts the burden of notice/disclosure to a home buyer, rather than on a seller and/or realtor.  This is SO WRONG!
  • Sussex County rep was worthless, sat there silently except to abstain from voting.  ?????

From the News Journal:

Saving Delaware’s coast from sea-level rise

Sussex declines to vote on proposed sea-level rise responses

In a symbolic blow to state climate change adaption efforts, the Delaware county with most at stake in future sea-level rise forecasts abruptly declined to take any stand on the issue Thursday as a state panel approved dozens of recommendations for dealing with the threat.

Jeff Shockley, Sussex County delegate to the state’s Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee, said local officials instructed him to abstain from voting on any of the roughly 60 options developed by the group over a 2½-year period. That move followed a skeptical response to the state effort by some County Council members during a briefing in Georgetown this month.

Despite the county abstentions, committee members completed recommendations that will go to Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin P. O’Mara after a final report-signing meeting in August.

The options range from broad directions to improve coordination among federal, state, county and local agencies and include sea-level rise in growth plans to a call for expanded public education and better collection of data on climate change indicators and sea-level changes.

Hours later, Delaware’s congressional delegation announced $20 million in National Science Foundation grants for science education and research at four Delaware higher education centers, emphasizing the effect of sea-level rise and soil contamination consequences.

“This is another good step in understanding how the changing climate and human impacts on the land affect our environment now and for many years to come,” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a statement.

Renewable energy technologies, such as offshore wind, and workforce development also will be targeted in the research, along with the development of new sensors for environmental monitoring. The grants will support collaborations involving the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wesley College and Delaware Technical Community College.

O’Mara commissioned a study in 2010 of the state’s vulnerability to climate change and adaptation options. The initiative followed a court ruling that DNREC lacked authority to consider sea-level rise in the denial of a wastewater permit in a flood-prone area near Leipsic and the Delaware Bay.

The vulnerability report, released last year, was based on a projected 3- to 5-foot rise in sea levels if pollution-driven climate change continues, a prospect that would permanently flood 11 percent of the state’s land area by 2100, from Wilmington to Fenwick Island.

Some 20,000 dwellings, nearly all of the state’s tidal wetlands, whole bayside communities as well as roads, important public resources and some industrial areas could face permanent inundation, according to predictions based on national and international studies. Sussex County, with its heavy ocean and bayside development, would be hit hardest.

Chip Guy, spokesman for Sussex County, said afterward the county government was nevertheless unprepared to vote on the options Thursday and could not provide an estimate for when it would be prepared to vote.

“While there may be individual concerns among some members of council, the body as a whole has not taken a position,” Guy said. “Because of the scope and number of recommendations being made, the county needs more time to thoroughly review those options being discussed and voted on.”

O’Mara issued a statement Thursday night in response to the county’s decision.

“The science is extremely compelling and we have many vulnerabilities that need to be addressed in the years ahead,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to work with Sussex County to help improve community resiliency to extreme storms and sea-level rise to prevent millions of dollars in future damage to infrastructure, private property and businesses.”

Until Thursday, Shockley had been an active participant, attending public comment sessions held in each county as the group’s recommendations began to take shape. Guy said Thursday the council received a presentation on the recommendations earlier this month and “simply wants more time to digest and review the vast number of recommendations made by the committee.”

In a recording of that council briefing earlier this month, some members were plainly skeptical of the risk and questioned DNREC’s success in bringing landowners into the process. Council member Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, said those predicting sea-level rise “have no facts … no science. It’s almost B.S., to be honest with you.”

Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Lewes, whose district takes in a large swath of coastal area, disagreed and said residents and land buyers need to be told about risks.

“Sam, you don’t have to worry about it in Georgetown. My district might be concerned about it,” Deaver said.

The state panel voted to scale back one controversial proposal – to require seller disclosure of a property’s sea-level rise vulnerability – last month, choosing instead to make more information available to buyers.

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