Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 10:55 AM


WANLESS, Harold R., Geological Sciences, Univ of Miami, P.O. Box 249176, Coral Gables, FL 33124,

As U.S. Government (NOAA) projections for anticipated future sea level rise are from 4.1 to 6.6 feet by the end of the century for scenarios with at least limited ice sheet melt, it is critical to take a hard look at future management and habitability of coastal beaches and barrier islands. With such a rise, essentially all barrier islands will be over-ridden by rising seas and abandoned during this century. In fact, the next 2 feet of sea level rise will make barrier islands extremely risky and challenging for habitation and with severely compromised infrastructure. This could occur by 2048-2066 or earlier. With accelerating sea levels projected through this century and beyond, it is time to refocus on plans to maintain community stability during relocation and environmental quality during inundation.

As there is little possibility that these sea level rise projections will diminish, it is imperative that (a) long-term, infrastructure-intensive development of barrier islands be terminated; (b) public money not be wasted on hard or soft shore protection measures but rather be put in to relocation assistance, cleaning low-lying polluted lands, and removing storm-damaged development and infrastructure; (c) firm sea-level-rise thresholds be established for termination of infrastructure services and of permission to rebuild following storm destruction; (d) governments establish a pre-planned sea-level-rise threshold staging for insurance withdrawal through cooperative public-private agreements, (e) establish federal, state and local legislation and mandate for the above, and (f) initiate intensive education for the affected public.

Over the coming century, hundreds of millions of people will be relocated from barrier islands, deltas and other low-lying coastal areas. We have a choice of making this a progressive orderly process in which there can be both help to the affected families and cleaning of the land before inundation – or risking catastrophic chaos, creation of large numbers of dislocated indigents, and highly polluted wetland and marine environments.