FORT LAUDERDALE — “Today’s extreme tides are tomorrow’s daily tides,” Pam Rubinoff warned at a seminar Thursday at the International Marina & Boatyard Conference on ways to reduce the effects of storms and sea-level rise on waterfronts.
Speaking at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, Rubinoff, a coastal management extension specialist for Rhode Island Sea Grant, said the evidence of more and higher storm and “king” tides — tides associated with the gravitational effects of particular alignments of the sun and moon — is pretty clear.
She said the tide was 1 foot above the mean higher high-water mark (MHHW, the average elevation of the higher of the two daily high tides over 19 years) recently at Watch Hill, R.I.; 1.5 feet above MHHW on San Francisco Bay in November; 2 feet above MHHW in June 2012 along much of the Rhode Island coast; and 4 feet above MHHW at Newport, R.I., during Hurricane Sandy in September 2012.
“This could be our daily tide 60 to 90 years from now,” she said.
The sea level has risen a foot off Newport during the past 100 years, she said. It is expected to rise another foot there by 2035, 2 feet by 2050 and perhaps as much as 7 feet by 2100.
For marinas and boatyards, this means higher costs of maintenance, retrofits and upgrades; more costly investments in the property in years ahead; rising insurance costs; challenges to business continuity; and effects on the rest of the community.
Rubinoff said Rhode Island Sea Grant has developed a survey for marinas and boatyards that identifies the risk rising water poses to a property. It evaluates the likelihood of flooding, storm surge, erosion and damaging fetch at the location; uses a digital map and overlay to show how much of the property will be under water in different-size storm tides; evaluates which buildings, utilities, electrical breakers, computers, office and other equipment are threatened by tidal flooding; and identifies operational risk factors (Does the business have a storm plan, haulout capacity to move boats before a storm, slip lease provisions detailing how boats will be managed as the storm approaches, a business continuity plan?).
The survey gives each facility a score that tallies its risk level.
What can be done to reduce the risk?
Rubinoff said marinas and boatyards should have floating docks that ride up and down on pilings; lengthen their pilings, commensurate with the amount of sea level rise at the facility; elevate utilities and fuel tanks, and secure the tanks; move hazardous materials out of flood zones; move files, computers and electrical breakers to upper floors; secure boats on boat stands by tying them to anchors embedded in the ground; strengthen the roofs of buildings; and put a business continuity plan on paper.
The websites http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/ and https://coast.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/tools/flood-exposure provide mapping tools to visualize the flooding threat from sea-level rise in different parts of the country.
Rhode Island Sea Grant has produced a report about a symposium it hosted on how businesses can adapt to climate change at http://www.beachsamp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2014_baird_proceedings.pdf.
Rubinoff said most marinas and boatyards are not prepared for what is expected to be a growing number of extreme coastal tides — king tides and storm surge. Responding to a survey, most waterfront facilities said they had a plan to deal with extreme tides, but “75 percent said the plan was not written down,” she said.
Rubinoff said Sea Grant offers a kit to help marina and boatyard operators reduce their risk.
“Know your risks; get a kit; make a plan,” she said.