Planning and Sea level rise in Delaware–public comments needed

Bureaucrats trying to do their jobs but Gov. Markell betrays us yet again….

The single most important issue Delaware faces is sea level rise due to global warming.  Nobody knows exactly how fast the sea is going to rise, but the estimates keep increasing.  In my opinion, most indications point to greater rise than the official forecasts, But any realistic estimate of the situation says Delaware is going to change a lot.

The official DNREC “vulnerability assessment” says:

“Statewide, between 8% and 11% of the state’s land area could be inundated by sea level rise by the year 2100. Inundation from sea level rise will occur in all three of Delaware’s counties, affecting a range of resources. Although the direct impacts from sea level rise will be felt primarily in areas near tidal waters, every Delawarean is likely to be affected whether through increased costs of maintaining public infrastructure, decreased tax base, loss of recreational opportunities or loss of community character.”

This includes, for example, the much-recently-discussed Port of Wilmington:

“Between 36% and 73% of the Port of Wilmington’s property is within an area that could be inundated by sea level rise by 2100.” (page 99)

There are a couple of basic ways of thinking about sea level rise (1) controlling it by reducing planet-frying emissions, and (2) adapting to it.  #1 is not happening.

Delaware has received funds from the federal government for “adaptation planning.”  this funding goes to, and the work is being done by, one of the least-known parts of Delaware government, “Coastal Programs” in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.”  This shop exists to carry out federal coastal zone management laws, which are entirely separate from the Delaware Coastal Zone Act.

The project manager for this is Susan Love, Planner 4, who now has possibly the single most important job in Delaware.

Love organized an advisory committee, which has produced an Options for Preparing Delaware for Sea Level Rise: Discussion Draft and DNREC is now holding public meetings and accepting written public input.  We think Coastal Programs has done a credible job, but it should be noted that only Delaware’s most corporate-controlled “environment” orgs, The Nature Conservancy and the Delaware “Nature” Society, were represented on the committee.

The next public meeting is:

4 – 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, Kent County Levy Court Complex, Dover, DE

Government is usually reactive–acting on problems only after-the-fact.

Global warming calls for planning and acting before-the-fact, something our governments don’t do very well.  It’s obvious, for example, that we shouldn’t build houses or roads or factories where they will soon be under water.

Delaware is especially poorly equipped to cope because of the weaknesses of our political systems and our traditions of control by special interests.  The State’s ability to plan has been systematically dismantled, beginning with Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV’s shutdown of the state planning office in the 1970s.

Now,Governor Jack Markell seeks another reduction in Delaware’s ability to plan for it’s future:  Markell wants to take away the independent status of the Office of State Planning Coordination and stuff it into the puzzle-palace bureaucracy of the Delaware Department of Transportation.

Language doing this has been presented to the Joint Finance Committee of the Delaware General Assembly in the DelDoT budget request.  (The General Assembly often “legislates” in budget bills, where closed-door dealmaking denies meaningful opportunity for public input.)

This is the exact opposite of what should be done.  (But Gov. Markell, like Gov. du Pont before him, is an ideological right-winger who wants to destroy the ability of government to control private interests.)

Instead of allowing DelDOT to swallow the present state planning operation, which mostly has only advisory powers anyway, state planning should be given the powers and resources to override developer-controlled county governments and enforce meaningful planning.  If we don’t do this, Delaware will be even more deeply sunk.


Contact your state Senator and Representative. Who’s my Legislator

Contact the members of the Joint Finance Committee. JOINT FINANCE COMMITTEE

Contact Governor Jack Markell: ,  (302) 577-3210


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