RISING SEA LEVELS

Although the scientific causes of sea level rise continue to be argued, the fact that there has been a measurable change in the last one hundred years is uncontestable. On the Eastern Shore this rise may be due to both an actual rise in tide levels at the same time that the land is subsiding, or sinking, Measurements taken at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County seem to indicate this and also show the negative effects of sea level rise on open marsh. The relationship between tides, erosion, man's influence and invasive species such as nutria or mute swans is a complicated one, but the overall effect has been that approximately 3,460 acres of marsh at the Refuge were converted to open water in the years from 1938 to 1989.
 
In Somerset County, the fact that the land elevations are so close to sea level raises particular concerns. County residents are aware that you do not have to go far to find someone who can recount land that was farm that is now marsh or is suffering serious salt water intrusion. Scenarios developed by EPA based on elevation show a significant portion of the County will be subject to inundation within several generations.
 
Such concerns may seem to be long range and something for planners to consider rather than the average property owner. However, where to place a dwelling and whether shore erosion control measures are necessary are within the scope of issues to be considered by individual property owners. In areas that are quickly eroding, placing the house well outside the Buffer, as well as elevating with at least one foot of freeboard above the One Hundred Year Flood Plain, should be taken seriously. Knowledge of local erosion rates and possible rising tide levels will lead to informed choices on the part of property owners.
 
The one thousand feet of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area is based on a measurement on official wetland maps developed in 1972 and they have not been updated. Since the Act designates this boundary under the Natural Resources Article (Title 16 of the Environmental Article), it will not change without additional legislation. In other words, if a property is not designated as within the Critical Areas on the State Maps, it will not become a part of the Critical Area, even if erosion/sea level rise claim, or have already claimed, additional land since the legislation was enacted. The original thousand-foot boundary of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area remains intact.
 
The 100-foot Buffer is also designated on the maps maintained by the County: however, this is for information purposes and the buffer must be dilineated based on actual site conditions. In the field, the Buffer will be measured from the edge of tidal wetlands or tidal waters, as they exist on the property. In this way, not only is the intent of maintaining a Buffer for the benefit of Bay water quality met, but also by limiting additional non-water dependant uses, flooding of structures will be minimized.
 
The Coastal Zone Management Division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has developed a study published in 2000 entitled "A Sea Level Rise Response Strategy For The State Of Maryland", which has supplied some of the information on this web page. While the Coastal Zone Management study was funded by NOAA, EPA, and the Corps of Engineers have also been exploring and researching this important issue.
 
 
In addition, the following web sites may supply useful information:
 
http://pubs.usga.gov/factsheet/fs 102-98
 
http://www.grdl.noaa.gov/GRD/GPS/Project/CB/cb.html
 
http://www.dnr.state.md.us
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