Sea level rise and public infrastructure

How to use sea level rise to push for more spending on infrastructure.  Probably federal, not local.

An article written by the Park Foundation covers problems with Eastern North Carolina infrastructure and uses sea level rise and fears of another Sandy to push for more infrastructure spending.

Professor Alex Glass, Duke University, is quoted as claiming a 3-foot rise by 2100, which seems to be a standard SLR claim.  Depending on which rate of SLR you wish to take (1.7 mm/yr to 3.2 mm/yr), Mr. Glass’ prediction requires for a linear rise, an immediate increase to 10.6 mm/yr which is 3.3-6.3 times the current rate.   They usually don’t provide year-by-year predictions with this claim.  Professor Tom Allen, East Carolina University, is concerned about sea level rise, but is not cited as predicting the amount, but also mentions that the area is undergoing subsidence, especially along the Outer Banks.  Both are concerned about more Sandy’s if the coast gets wetter.

So, what does all this have to do with infrastructure?  Sewer piping will deteriorate, more inflows and infiltration, waste water treatment plants in low areas will require expensive renovation, roads to waste water plants flooding (Plymouth, NC, elevation not much above sea level).  Sewer main installation was quoted at about $1,000, 000 per mile.  In a good many areas the sewer and waste water infrastructure is well into or past the expected life of the systems.  It’s difficult to get the public behind spending on infrastructure based on some future need.  The last great public spending on waste water is approaching 40 years or so.  So, in the spirit of never letting a good crisis go to waste, let’s use climate scares for more federal money.

I’ve always wondered at the expense of public projects.  In the 1990’s I had hard quotes or $500,000 for 2 miles of 14″ force main for a waste water plant discharge.  When we got free federal money for the project, the cost went to $2,000,000 for the same design and equipment.



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3 responses to “Sea level rise and public infrastructure

  1. “The area is undergoing subsidence, especially along the Outer Banks.”

    Barrier islands, made of sand, have subsidence? Shocking!

  2. this might be easily used to justify the “rise” that occurs on the major rivers of the midwest in the spring.

    the amount of increase in sea rise generally is insignificant and only important when there are surges and storms.

    So I am supposed to think this is some kind of catastrophic event?

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