Beaufort County commissioners must be kidding!

Published 11:34 am Thursday, February 24, 2011

To the Editor:

Beaufort County commissioners must be kidding! They have unanimously rejected a policy proposed by the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management for coastal counties by which to direct future development based on the estimated rise in sea level over the next century. The estimated rise in sea level, 3.28 feet by 2100, means that many areas in Beaufort County will be submerged by then. Certainly, if one considers not only sea level rise, but also takes into consideration shoreline erosion precipitated by more frequent storms caused by climate change, we can expect to lose thousands of acres of our coastal lowlands in the coming decades.

The choice is ours to accept the policy and plan accordingly, or to ignore predictions based upon sound science and plow ahead, as if nothing is changing. Sure, let’s go ahead and develop areas that may well be submerged in 100 years! Why not? As has been the case up until now, future taxpayers will surely foot the bill to recover lost property and infrastructure which never should have been developed in the first place. Commissioner Robert Cayton is quoted in the Washington Daily News at the February  meeting of the county board as saying, “because of where Beaufort County is located, we have become the victim of many, many unnecessary regulations.” Unnecessary for whom? It is our grandchildren who will be victimized. “Commissioner Hood Richardson said the policy is not needed because federal regulations governing development in flood zones already address the concerns proposed by the sea-level policy and would result in ‘duplicate regulations.’” (WDN)  FEMA-mapped flood zones, drawn after Hurricane Floyd, are based upon flooding associated with episodic storm events, not on a rise in sea level.

Our state agencies do not propose policies on a whim. Many years of data collection and assessment back their recommendations. Commissioners “Cayton, Klemm, and Richardson ╔” may well “work to develop a plan to defeat any future regulations proposed by the state’s coastal-management bodies” (WDN), but they will not be able to hold back the sea, and they will thus be sending a strong message to their constituents that they have no regard for the future economic well-being of Beaufort County.

If “North Carolina is the first state along the East Coast to propose a future sea-level-rise rate, and it would be the first to develop a policy based on this future rate,” (WDN) we should applaud its foresight and vision. The Cypress Group of the Sierra Club, representing over 1,000 members from 23 eastern N.C. counties, supports sound policies and rule-making which prepare coastal counties for anticipated sea level rise. Denying the need for planning around this phenomenon is certainly to stick one’s head in the sand.