Preparing for Tomorrow's High Tide: Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment for the State of Delaware

Delaware’s Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee (SLRAC) was established by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), to help the state plan for sea level rise. The SLRAC is assessing Delaware’s vulnerability to current and future inundation problems that may be exacerbated by sea level rise. Their goal is to develop a set of recommendations for state agencies, local governments, businesses, and citizens to enable them to adapt programs, policies, business practices and make informed decisions.

This vulnerability assessment represents the first phase of SLRAC's work, intended to be used as a starting point for more detailed localized or resource-based assessments and as a basis for prioritizing adaptation measures. The second phase of this project will be to develop an adaptation plan for the state.

The report details the state's vulnerabilities to sea-level rise of up to 1.5 meters. It includes background information on sea level rise, a description of vulnerability assessment methods, exposure assessment tables, and risk assessments for 79 resources. Of the resources at risk from sea level rise, 16 are identified as being of high concern statewide including: beaches and dunes; coastal impoundments; dams, dikes, and levees; evacuation routes; freshwater tidal wetlands; future development areas; habitats of conservation concern; heavy industrial areas; the Port of Wilmington; protected lands statewide; roads and bridges; railroad lines, tidal wetlands; tourism and coastal recreation; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges; and wells.  A comprehensive set of vulnerability maps and information on how to use them is also included in the Mapping Appendix.

The assessment estimates that 8% to 11% of the state's land areas would be inundated by sea level rise which includes transportation and port infrastructure, historic fishing villages, resort towns, agricultural fields, wastewater treatment facilities, and many ecologically significant wetlands and other wildlife habitats. Moreover, the report notes that sea level rise will have indirect effects on all Delaware residents through the budgetary impact of a smaller tax base and increased infrastructure maintenance costs, loss of recreation opportunities, and changes in community character.  

Publication Date: July 2012

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