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US Naval Academy board hears about handling sea-level rise

The USS Sioux City (LCS 11) is seen at Annapolis, Md., on Nov. 17, 2018. Projections on sea-level rise have affected plans to raise the Farragut Seawall at the U.S. Navy Academy in Annapolis. The project, expected to begin in 2020, will raise the wall more than 2.6 feet with plans to raise it again at the appropriate time.

KENNETH D ASTON JR./U.S. NAVY

By BRIAN WITTE | Associated Press | Published: December 4, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The sea level in Annapolis is predicted to rise between 0.6 and 3.6 feet by 2050, a U.S. Naval Academy oceanography professor said Monday in a briefing about an advisory council helping the riverside academy make decisions on flood-related matters.

Professor Gina Henderson told the academy's Board of Visitors that a road on the academy's grounds has been closed 38 times so far this year because of flooding, the most it has been closed since the academy has kept track. The board, which includes members of Congress, acts like a board of trustees at a civilian college.

"This nuisance flooding is only increasing, and it does affect operations here on the Yard," Henderson said.

Henderson, who is the co-chairwoman of the academy's Sea Level Rise Advisory Council, said the panel has been working to leverage expertise at the academy to help prepare for future flooding from sea-level rise. The council was formed in 2015 to help plan.

"The goal of this council is to develop a sea-level adaptation plan for the superintendent on matters pertaining to flooding due to sea level rise and/or to extreme weather events in Annapolis," she said.

Vice Adm. Ted Carter, the academy's superintendent, said the academy will need to be prepared to respond to rising waters in multiple ways.

"What we have to be prepared for is: There's going to be some amount of sea-level rise," he said.

Carter said projections on sea-level rise already have affected plans to raise a seawall, which is now 5.4 feet above sea level. Work on the Farragut Seawall, which is expected to begin in 2020, will raise it more than 2.6 feet with plans to raise it again at the appropriate time. He described it as "the first of many projects" in which the academy will need to take future sea-level rise into account.

Carter said the academy basically has three options in contending with rising sea levels: Block the water from entering the campus, create pumps or dikes to move the water out, or abandon parts of the campus. He pointed out that the expense of flood mitigation projects will be a factor going forward.

"We won't be able to build a wall around the whole place. Can we build a series of levees around the Naval Academy to protect it better from this? So, this is the thought that's going to have to come together here in the next, I would say, 10 to 20 years," Carter said, adding that academy officials will need to determine what can be done "because we're not planning to move."
 

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