ISLANDS ADRIFT – Post Irma/Maria State-of-Preparedness of the Eastern Caribbean Islands

This report by BVI Beacon Editor Freeman Rogers and a team of reporters from the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) in Puerto Rico. Check the article at the link above for some excellent photography not shown in this text copy (Captions marked [Caption]below.)

This story is part of the ISLANDS ADRIFT series, resulting from the work of a
dozen Caribbean journalists (including Freeman Rogers of the BVI Beacon) led by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) in Puerto Rico. The investigations were possible in part with the support of the Ford Foundation, Para la Naturaleza, Miranda Foundation, Angel Ramos Foundation,and Open Society Foundations.

To continue and extend this important work, make a contribution to the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo at <>. Your donation will be processed through the reputable “Network for Good” non-profit, which I have been using for support of several groups or projects since 2007. On the Network for Good site, you can designate if you want your funds to support a specific project or program. I suggest you cite ISLANDS ADRIFT.

Climate Change Series > Islands Adrift: As climate warms, Caribbean ill-prepared

by Freeman Rogers, Omaya Sosa Pascual and Emmanuel Estrada López
April 20, 2018

[Caption] Dinelle Henley fears for her native Cane Garden Bay, one of the most iconic and pristine beaches of the Caribbean. Like much of the Virgin Islands, the village was devastated by winds, waves and flooding when the centre of Hurricane Irma passed directly over the territory on Sept. 6, 2017.]

Eighty nautical miles to the west, Alexis Correa feels the same way. Although
they do not know each other, they speak different languages and their
governments are unrelated, he has also seen firsthand what the fury of a
Category Four hurricane is capable of doing to a small, vulnerable island. When
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico with its 155-mile-per-hour winds on
Sept. 20 it swept away roofs, structures, bridges and roads all over the island.

But Mr. Correa has been watching a prelude to this destruction in his community
for more than a decade. The ocean first claimed the social and cultural centre of
his Parcelas SuaÅLrez neighborhood in the municipality of Loiza. Then Hurricane
Maria swept away the basketball court and the park. The places were an integral
part of this community, one stricken by poverty, criminality, discrimination and
limited social mobility, and its destruction has left residents with practically no

“Here the community board and residents used to meet, but we also used to
celebrate weddings and quinceaneros,” Mr. Correa said as he looked at the ruins
of the building, which also served as a childcare center before it was closed in
2002 because of the damage caused by erosion. “We moved to the court and
the park, but Maria destroyed them. Now we donʼt have a place to meet.”

In St. Croix, organic farmer Luca Gasperi is similarly distraught, but not
surprised: He believes the back-to-back September storms that hit his native
United States VI were consistent with other weather patterns that he had been
noticing for years.

“Everything is more intense,” he said as his wife Christina sold produce on a
Saturday afternoon at the 40-acre farm they operate on his parentsʼ land.
Then he ticked off a list of evidence: A lengthy drought struck in 2015,
rainstorms have been heavier, and for the first time in more than a decade of
farming he suddenly is unable to grow broccoli. Another hurricane, he added,
could be the last straw.

“For us, if it happens again…,” he said, his voice trailing off. “Thatʼs the thing:
The way these storms this year got so strong so quick — thatʼs nerve-racking.”
Ms. Henley, Mr. Correa and Mr. Gasperi blame rapid climate change due to
global warming and government inaction for greatly exacerbating their islandsʼ
losses, and they worry that the ocean and extreme weather events like Irma and
Maria will continue to expose the fragility of their islandsʼ infrastructure and
flawed construction practices.

[Caption]A solar farm near Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas was largely destroyed by the September storms. (Photo: FREEMAN ROGERS)

Destruction in plain sight

Their stories are a snapshot of how climate change is not only eroding the
coasts of these territories and other Caribbean islands, but actively destroying
community life and economic activity in plain sight with little to no governmental
action to protect citizens, according to a regional investigation by the Puerto
Rico Center for Investigative Journalism (known as CPI for its Spanish initials)
and half a dozen Caribbean media outlets.

Experts agree. Ramon Bueno, coauthor of one of the few existing studies on
climate change in the Caribbean, said the scientific community agrees that the
hotter air in the atmosphere caused by global warming carries more humidity
that elevates the sea level and provokes stronger storms, with more rain and
higher surges. These were among the conclusions of the most recent report
from the United Nationsʼ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), its
Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), published in November 2014. The IPCC, where
more than 2,000 scientists from 195 member countries collaborate, is the
worldʼs primary source of scientific information on climate change and its

“While the number of hurricanes may not change much, or may even decrease
somewhat, what is most probable with global warming is that we will see a
greater amount of high category hurricanes,” Mr. Bueno said. The scientist
worked at Tufts University Global Development and Environmental Institute
(GDEI) and was a staff scientist at the Stockholm Environmental Institute, and
since 2013 he has been an independent consultant specialising in climate

“The problem is that, as 2017 made quite clear, only a few Category Four
or Five hurricanes represent a very high threat to the sustainability of
communities in the islands of the Caribbean. It is worse when a same place is hit
by more that one [hurricane]. After Maria, even a mere tropical storm or
Category One hurricane would be devastating,” he added.

Dr. Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, who is currently working on two studies about the impact of
hurricanes in the Caribbean, said that there is consensus on two issues about
the effects of climate change: The sea-level is rising and the amount of rainfall
is increasing. And both are set to cause serious hurricane flood damage in the

In the coastal town of Rincon, in the north of Puerto Rico, Julian Rodriguez knew
that in ten years many things could happen, but he didnʼt see that the two family
beach apartments — an investment of over $400,000 — could be destroyed
overnight. During Hurricane Maria the sea undermined the foundations of
Rincon Ocean Club II, a three-story condominium next to the beach, and his
dream became salt and water, literally.

“If I am honest, I imagined that this would happen. I had seen that this had
happened three times already, with tropical storms that passed through the
south of Puerto Rico — even if they did not hit the island. And even if Rincon
didnʼt get a drop of rain, the waves came and the fence of the condominium was
washed to sea. When they told me that a Category Four hurricane was coming, I
knew that was it. The shock of seeing it is different. But I knew it was coming,”
he recalled.

When his family bought the two apartments, Julian remembers seeing — and
playing on — a sandy beach of about 30 feet wide. It never occurred to him that
the ocean would end up swallowing the building, which is just under 15 years

“And many of those who have, or had, an apartment here, they still owe a
mortgage. You buy this thinking that 30 or 40 years from now you will still have
it,” he said.

Ten years ago Ramon Bueno and his colleagues at Tufts GDEI — Cornelia
Herzfeld, Elizabeth A. Stanton and Frank Ackerman — saw this coming. In their
2008 study The Caribbean and Climate Change: The Costs of Inaction, they
warned that the two dozen island nations and territories of the Caribbean with
their 40 million inhabitants were especially vulnerable to the effects of global
warming though they have contributed little to the release of the greenhouse
gases that drive the phenomenon.

The researchers looked at optimistic and pessimistic scenarios based on a
study developed by IPCC, analysing average hurricane damages, tourism losses
and infrastructure damages due to sea-level rises from hurricanes, and
projected $22 billion in losses to the Caribbeanʼs economy by year 2050 — or
10 percent of the regionʼs gross domestic product. Nonetheless, individual
projections of losses vary much from island to island, with some in the range of
40 percent and Haiti at the top with 61 percent.

“As ocean levels rise, the smallest, low-lying islands may disappear under the
waves. As temperatures rise and storms become more severe, tourism — the
life-blood of many Caribbean economies — will shrink and with it both private
incomes and the public tax revenues that support education, social services and
infrastructure,” the scientists said.

Now, concrete impact of rising sea levels and temperatures and extreme
weather events is not a future projection, but a tough reality. In places like
Puerto Rico, the VI, the USVI, Dominica, Panama, Dominican Republic and Haiti,
CPIʼs regional investigation documented ongoing floods, population
displacement, significant loss of the shoreline, and impacts on tourism
businesses that are already happening.

Palominito island, a popular tourism destination for boaters off the eastern coast
of Puerto Rico, has almost disappeared.

Recent hurricanes have dramatically exacerbated coastal erosion and exposed
the fragility of infrastructure and the potentially deadly impact on populations of
the worst hit islands: Puerto Rico, the VI, the USVI, Dominica, Barbuda and St.

“We as a region now have to look particularly at the events of last year and the
projections of the future that this is the new reality for the Caribbean, and we
have to protect ourselves,” said Dr. Ulric Trotz, the deputy director and science
advisor for the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize.

[Caption]A salt pond breached the beach at Cane Garden Bay, pictured above in December, which is steadily rebuilding but still has a long way to go. (Photo: CHRISTINA KISSOON)

VI flooding

Amid the catastrophic devastation that Irma wrought in the VI, it is easy to
forget that another natural disaster struck the territory about three weeks
As residents prepared for the annual August Emancipation Festival parade, the
sky darkened and rain began to fall. Soon the parade was called off, although a
handful of troupes performed anyway, dancing through Road Town as thunder
crashed and water poured down in sheets.

Over the next 24 hours, some 16 inches fell in parts of the territory, and the
capital city and other areas flooded to a level that was unprecedented in recent

Leaders have since dubbed the disaster a “100-year flood,” but Department of
Disaster Management Director Sharleen Dabreo pointed out that catastrophic
floods have struck the territory on a seven-year cycle since 2003.

“Itʼs not just Irma and Maria: Itʼs that you have these flooding events triggered
by these [weather] troughs, which is something that you didnʼt have in the
past,” Ms. DaBreo said, adding, “There needs to be a better relationship
between the scientific community and the development planning elements of

University of Puerto Rico geology professor and geographer Dr. Maritza Barreto
Orta, who has conducted numerous studies on beach erosion in Puerto Rico
and the Dominican Republic, agrees. In Puerto Rico, she found that between
1970 and 2010 the most severely eroded point had a net loss of 70 metres of
shoreline, in the municipality of LoiÅLza. Since 2011 the average annual loss rate of
two metres has gone up to more than four metres in some areas.

A week after Maria, Dr. Barreto and her team visited 75 percent of Puerto Ricoʼs
1,225 beaches and visually documented significant erosion and flattening. The
most striking case found was in La Boca sector in the municipality of
Barceloneta, where the beach was reduced from its 60 metres to only four. She
is currently looking for state and federal funding to update the full study.

“I feel there is a lack of trust towards academia, and that is a serious problem
because the government has to trust the data experts and scientists generate,”
she said. “At the same time, academia should go to public hearings and make
itself heard, because the knowledge we generate is important to public policy.”

The political and colonial dilemma

According to Dr. Trotz, Mr. Bueno, Dr. Barreto and other scientists, the recent
weather events clearly illustrate the effects of global warming in the region,
which is highly dependent on tourism and suffers from a low level of agricultural
activity and food sustainability.

Nonetheless, many of the countries and territories in the Caribbean are being
overlooked by their governments and international organisations. CPIʼs
investigation found that only three – the VI, Cuba and Mexico — out of 13
countries and territories surveyed have climate change legislation in place and
even in these places, building codes, environmental rules, and other regulations
often are not followed.

It also found that there is not even reliable, standardised and up-to-date data on
what is happening in about a dozen islands in the region in the databases of
international organisations dedicated to studying climate change impact, such
as the IPCC and the University of Notre Dameʼs Global Adaptation Initiative,
among others.

These islands — some of the most vulnerable in the world — have a crucial
thing in common: They are so-called territories or colonies in the 21st century.
They have no individual participation in the IPCC and other international
organisations devoted to monitoring the impact of climate change around the
world and proposing solutions.

They are forgotten islands like about a dozen more in the Caribbean, and many
of them belong to but are not part of the US, England, Holland and France.
There is little to no information about their indicators in IPCC, UN and ND-Gain
Index databases. In some cases there is not even a slot with their names. That is
the case with the ND-Gain Index, which uses UN data and shows US information

in the case of Puerto Rico — misleadingly portraying that the island is doing
great — and no information at all in the case of VI, the USVI and the rest of the
Caribbean territories.

Currently 86 experts from 39 countries are working on IPCCʼs next world
climate change assessment report (AR6), which will be published in September
2018. Only two of these experts are from the Caribbean, both from Cuba.
“Itʼs just terrible. The neglect of that whole part of the world is shocking,” Dr.
Emanuel from MIT said.

Dangerous consequences

Puerto Rico, the USVI and the BVI all offer striking examples of the problems
associated with climate change and the dangerous consequences for their
people and their economies. The islandsʼ policymakers, legislators and
governors, and their imperial owners, have known for decades about the
vulnerability of their infrastructure and the increased dangers that climate
change pose to these islands and populations. And for decades they have
debated, legislated and talked about it. But words have not translated into

For instance, the Puerto Rican Legislature has seen more than 45 measures
between 2005 and 2018 directed at putting into place mitigation and adaptation
measures and dealing with the urgency of coastal erosion. Only one has passed:
Climate Change Law 246, which was signed by Governor AniÅLbal Acevedo VilaÅL in
2008. It did not last eight months. It was officially repealed less than two years
later by his opposing party successor Luis Fortuno Burset, and its provisions
were never enacted before that.

In 2007 the Puerto Rico House of Representatives discussed PC 3414, the first
bill related to climate change that was presented in that body. It was not
approved in the Special Commission on Global Warming and Security, but just
the possibility of the proposal being considered at a legislative level was enough
for gasoline distributors in Puerto Rico — the Gasoline Retailers Association
(ADG), Peerless Oil & Chemicals and Caribbean Petroleum Refining — to
oppose the government preparation of a Plan for the Reduction of Gas
Emissions and Control of Global Warming and to question Puerto Ricoʼs
adherence to the Kyoto Agreement of 1997.

In the USVI, similar stalled measures include a climate change strategy that was
required by a 2015 executive order but never materialised.

The VI, on the other hand, now appears on paper to be a poster child for
preparedness, thanks mostly to steps taken in the past decade. In 2012, the
territoryʼs Cabinet adopted a Climate Change Adaptation Policy, setting dozens
of specific deadlines for mitigation measures that in many cases had been
promised for decades. Then in 2015, the BVI became the first in the region to
adopt a legal framework for a trust fund designed to raise money to prepare for
global warming.

However, at least two thirds of the deadlines listed in the 2012 policy have
already been missed, and the trust fund is not yet operational, the CPI found.
And although VI leaders say that the promised reforms are in the works,
scientists and policymakers who recall the repeated failure of such efforts over
the past quarter century worry that the territoryʼs elected officials — who are
responsible for passing laws and managing the territoryʼs internal affairs — will
be unable to muster the political will to see them through.

Such concerns are echoed throughout the region, even though experts say that
comprehensive measures are essential for protecting islands from climate
change and for helping them access badly needed international funding.

“We only start to talk about resilience when we have a big event,” Dr. Trotz said.
“Post-disaster, thereʼs a lot of rhetoric, a lot of activity and whatnot, and then it
fades. So thereʼs a big challenge: We canʼt move ahead significantly without the
political direction, without the political will.”

[Caption]Even as a team worked to repair the extensive hurricane damage at Quitoʼs Gazebo in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, the business was pounded by a heavy swell in early March. (Photo: FREEMAN ROGERS)

The experience of the VI, the USVI and Puerto Rico shows why failure to take
decisive action could be catastrophic. Policymakers and scientists say that the
2017 hurricanes and other recent weather events have exposed decades-old
shortcomings in the territoriesʼ development frameworks, building rules,
environmental laws, energy practices and other areas that have left them
increasingly vulnerable to global warming.

In Puerto Rico, Maria put at risk the lives of the territoryʼs 3.5 million citizens,
caused a death toll than could exceed 1,000 deaths, caused the displacement of
183,000 citizens who left the island, and directly impacted the tourism industry,
one of the governmentʼs few bets to relaunch the badly damaged economy. The
whole electrical grid of the island collapsed, more than 472,000 houses were
severely damaged, and more than 90,000 families were left without a roof. Most
of the population was left in the dark and without communications for four
months and was exposed to serious health hazards like contaminated water and
deficient hospital services. More than six months after the storm there are still
50,000 households and businesses without electricity, and power outages and
water problems are common all over the island.

The USVI got a one-two punch. Irma devastated much of St. Thomas and St.
John, and about two weeks later Maria pounded the southernmost island of St.
Croix. Both of the territoryʼs main hospitals were mostly destroyed, and more
than 400 patients were evacuated to the mainland US. Thirteen schools were
closed, more than 100,000 of the territoryʼs 103,000 residents lost power, and
most major resorts were severely damaged.

Irma wrought similar havoc in the VI, where about 22 percent of the 28,000
population was displaced and an estimated 70 percent of buildings suffered
damage, with many of those — including some that housed government offices
— totally destroyed.

Since the storm, no major resort has fully reopened — a serious blow in a
territory where tourism generates more than 30 percent of the gross domestic
product and directly employs one in three people. As of March 1, the total
number of hotel rooms available in BVI was 336, compared to 2,700 before Irma.
The yacht charter industry was hit hard too: Available berths at sea as of March
1 were 1,584, compared to 3,800 before the storm.

Other islands in the stormsʼ path suffered similar losses, including Dominica, St.
Martin and Barbuda, which was hit so hard that all of its approximately 1,800
residents evacuated.

All these islands are far from recovering from Irma and Maria, and the new
hurricane season is than two months away.

“Our natural resource infrastructure — things like mangroves, wetlands, ghuts;
the key things that are really there to help storm protection, flooding — weʼve
basically destroyed it all before this happened,” said Dr. Shannon Gore, a VI
biologist who serves on the board of the territoryʼs recently appointed Climate
Change Trust Fund. “And this basically exposed the fact that we shouldnʼt have
done that. And if this isnʼt a wakeup call, nothing else is really.”

Cane Garden Bay, for instance, still appeared pristine before the storm, but for
decades it had faced mounting pressures that werenʼt obvious to the tens of
thousands of tourists who annually flocked to its sandy, palm-tree-lined shore.
Mangroves and other wetlands around the village have been damaged or
destroyed by patchwork development, exacerbating flooding and runoff from
poorly protected road and construction sites, Dr. Gore explained. That runoff, in
turn, has damaged reefs that might have better protected the shoreline from the
waves during Irma.

In the same way, iconic beach bars — many of which were built in contravention
of a planning guideline that prohibits construction within 50 feet of the high
water mark — have contributed to erosion, and the villageʼs sewage system has
been overworked and under-functioning for years.

Irma served as a stark reminder of the dangerous exposure exacerbated by
such issues. All the beach bars there were severely damaged — if not totally
obliterated — and the government had to temporarily ban swimming because of
high levels of bacteria in the water caused in part by the faulty sewage system.

Although some bars have since reopened and others are rebuilding, the
shoreline often remains empty and tourists are typically taken instead to an
undeveloped beach that is not lined with damaged buildings and other debris.
Puerto Rico faced a similar situation. Many beaches were closed because of the
high levels of bacteria, and cement structures on the shoreline crumbled in
some areas.

Thereʼs a lesson to be learned from Cane Garden Bayʼs plight, according to VI
ecologist Clive Petrovic.

“If people want to protect what they build there now, then clean the water so
that the corals can grow and rebuild the coral reef outside,” Mr. Petrovic said,
adding that coral is a primary source for the sand on many VI beaches. “You
look at nature and you look at how does nature solve a problem. And the way
nature protects shorelines is with reefs.”

[Caption]This church near Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, still stands open to the elements. (Photo: FREEMAN ROGERS)

Promising reform

In spite of its challenges, the VI has recently committed to comprehensive
reform in the midst of a much broader global push.

In 2009, the worldʼs richest nations met in Copenhagen, Denmark, and pledged
to provide $100 billion in funding annually to help developing countries prepare
for global warming by 2020. That commitment was reaffirmed under the Paris
Agreement in 2015.

But donor countries want to ensure that those funds are well spent.

“The donors are really looking for the countries to get their house in order,” said
George de Berdt Romilly, a Canada-based environmental lawyer who has
consulted extensively on climate change initiatives throughout the Caribbean
and South Pacific. “This is not a blank cheque: They want to see … national
strategies and policies approved at a very high level which really articulate the
vision or the roadmap for going forward.”

The BVI has stayed ahead of the curve. A 2010 green paper was followed in 2011
by a tourism impact assessment. And in 2012, the territoryʼs Cabinet adopted a
comprehensive Climate Change Adaptation Policy, which included deadlines in
four years for about 140 goals ranging from environmental legislation to
development guidelines to energy policy to agricultural and fishing reforms.
But by 2018, no more than a third of the goals has been met, found the CPI.
Leaders argue that such measures take time and point to a variety of resilience
projects being implemented by the government and other stakeholders,
including a recent shoreline revetment in Cane Garden Bay, efforts to make
schools and health facilities more eco-friendly and resilient, and flood mapping
studies. But conservationists and technocrats say that history shows a tendency
for VI legislators to brush aside the difficult comprehensive reforms that are
necessary to fundamentally change the way the territory does business on a
day-to-day level.

Indeed, the unfulfilled goals listed in the climate change policy include dozens of
measures that have been promised for more than a decade, such as a national
development plan that has been in the works since the 1990s; environmental
legislation and planning regulations that politicians have pledged to pass nearly
every year since the mid 2000s; and long overdue updates to the 18-year-old
building ordinance, among others.

Premier Dr. Orlando Smith and Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering, who is the
minister of natural resources and labor, did not respond to interview requests,
but Governor Gus Jaspert said that he and the UK are pushing for the elected
leaders of the territory to act quickly.

“It needs to be the government here making those changes,” Mr. Jaspert said.

“To be honest, I find it disappointing that a territory that is so naturally blessed
in terms of its environment doesnʼt have much in the way of alternative energy;
… doesnʼt have good recycling or energy efficiency, so I 100-percent support
the governmentʼs drive to do more on that.”

But Mr. Romilly said that the UK isnʼt necessarily putting its money where its
mouth is.

“When they introduced this announcement that the international community is
going to finance climate change programming with this $100 billion
commitment, the British government put in place a carbon levy on airline travel,”
he said, adding that half of that tax initially was promised for destination
countries, including ones in the Caribbean. “The money has been collected for
some years, but [the British government] have not made good on that
commitment to make the 50 percent available directly to the countries where
the travellers are going.”

But even when international funding is available, he added, donor countries and
other contributors also want in place a mechanism to effectively administer it,
such as the BVIʼs trust fund, which is to be operated by an independent board.
Thanks in large part to a regional push by the Caribbean Community Climate
Change Centre, 10 of 15 of Caricomʼs full members — and the five British
overseas territories that are associate members — have drafted a climate
change policy or strategy, according to the CCCCC. But they have seen varying
levels of success officially adopting them at the Cabinet level of government,
and so far only the BVI and Antigua and Barbuda have passed legislation to
establish the sort of independent fund that many donors want, Mr. Romilly said.
When there has been progress, it often has been patchy. Dominica, for instance,
first adopted a climate change adaptation strategy in 2002, but many of its
goals werenʼt met, according to Mr. Romilly.

“The government had very limited resources, so where there was action it was
because there was funding provided, … but there was slippage where funding
could not be mobilised,” he said.

And although the countryʼs government adopted a Low-Carbon Climate-
Resilient Development Strategy in 2012, he said, it still hasnʼt passed a bill
drafted in 2014 that would establish a trust fund — in spite of Dominica Prime
Minister Roosevelt Skerritʼs repeated promises to take decisive action after
Hurricane Maria devastated the country.

“Even though the prime minister has committed himself to being the first
climate resilient country in the region, and it has been made clear to the
government of Dominica that they need to have this legislation passed to do
this, they have not got round to passing this legislation,” said Mr. Romilly, who
helped draft the strategies and the bill.

He added that governments often donʼt pass such measures until they are
required to do so in order to obtain international funding.

“Unless thereʼs funding thereʼs invariably very little action,” he said, adding that
Dominica likely will pass the bill soon in order to access funding for a resilience
project that is in the works.

In spite of such hitches, however, the Caricom member countries in general are
ahead of many of their neighbours, thanks in part to their collaborative efforts,
Mr. Romilly said.

“The rest of the region is really trying to play catch-up, and of course that was
fairly successful [on US territories] under the Obama administration because
there was a recognition of climate change as an issue,” he said. “However, in the
current administration thereʼs been obviously a complete turnaround on that

In the case of Puerto Rico, there is not even a climate change plan in place and
Governor Ricardo Rossello appears completely aloof. He did not accept multiple
requests for interview for this story and since Hurricane Mariaʼs devastation he
has devoted only two public sentences to the issue, during his yearly State of
the Commonwealth Address to Puerto Ricoʼs Legislature March 5.

“The time has come to work on a holistic vision of the environment and the
impact climate change has in Puerto Rico. I will support the measures you
produce in this body to address this problem,” he said.

At the same time, he promoted new housing construction through economic
incentives in an island that is bedridden by debt, abandoned properties and

Posted in Disaster Management, Futures, Governance, Information, Media, Resource Management, Small Island, Tourism

Sarah Kliff, VoxCare: Workers Who Work Would Lose Coverage

I’m still not over this finding. To me, it just seems hard to justify Medicaid work requirements when they can lead to people losing their health insurance when they are, by any reasonable definition, working. As I wrote about this new CBPP study earlier in the week:
By CBPP’s estimate, one in four people who worked enough hours over the course of a year to meet Kentucky’s work requirement are still estimated to have at least one month where they fall below the state’s 80-hour monthly requirement, and could, therefore, be at risk of losing coverage.

In other words: A Medicaid work requirement could force working people to lose their health insurance because it isn’t structured to reflect the realities of what work looks like for people with lower incomes.

Posted in Fun

From our sister blog — WMWWGr8T

via The “EPA Medallion” — Who Knew?

But for those of us of a certain age, let’s go back to 1970, in this note from the nostalgia site Weird Universe (sort of a joke):

January 1970: The White House guard (secret service uniformed division) publicly revealed their new uniforms which featured a white, double-breasted tunic with gold shoulder trim and a stiff shako hat with peaked front. They replaced the black uniforms the guards had previously worn on ceremonial occasions.

President Nixon had ordered that a new uniform be designed after he had seen what palace guards wore in other countries and had decided that the White House needed something as fancy.

However, almost no one liked the new uniforms. People made comments such as:

  •  they look like extras from a Lithuanian movie”
  • “Late Weimar Republic”
  • “Nazi uniforms”
  • “like a palace guard of toy soldiers”
  • “will they be goose-stepping, or what?”
  • “falls somewhere between early high school band and late palace guard.”
  • “They look like old-time movie ushers.”
  • Chicago Tribune columnist Walter Trohan complained they were a “frank borrowing from decadent European monarchies, which is abhorrent to this country’s democratic tradition.”

The guards themselves complained that they felt too theatrical and that the hats were uncomfortable. So within a month the hats had disappeared. The white jackets lasted longer, but eventually they too were mothballed.

Alton Evening Telegraph – Jan 30, 1970

However, the uniforms weren’t thrown out. They sat in storage for a decade, and in 1980 they were sold to the Meriden-Cleghorn High School Marching Band in Iowa.



Posted in Fun

The Psychological Toll of Anti-Immigration Rhetoric and Policy

from the extraordinary magazine, Undark <>

CROSS SECTIONS / News & Features

Exploring the Psychological Toll of Anti-Immigration Rhetoric and Policy

A study of psychological distress among U.S. Latino parents is one of the first to look at the mental impacts of new immigration policies.

04.05.2018/ BY Robin Lloyd

On Wednesday, President Trump officially ordered the National Guard to assist patrol agents at the U.S./Mexico border. The action followed his calls earlier this week for stronger border-control laws, and an Easter Sunday tweet opposing Obama-era policies that have allowed certain illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to attend college and become permanent residents. Last November, Trump said he would phase that program out entirely.

President Trump has made no secret of his intentions to crack down on illegal immigration. But the psychological toll of his rhetoric reaches beyond those who are in the U.S. illegally, a new study suggests.

Visual: Michael Vadon/Flickr/CC

Such actions no doubt weigh heavily on the minds of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, but a new study of psychological distress suggests that the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Trump era takes a toll on U.S. Latino parents regardless of their legal residency. Overall, the study’s results, which were derived from a survey conducted last November of 213 U.S. Latino adults in a mid-Atlantic suburb who have at least one adolescent child, might not bode well for the nation’s future workforce and leadership.

About two-thirds of the parents surveyed were in the U.S. legally. The majority of the sample arrived in the U.S. from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Beyond discussions about whether to renew or roll back well-known policies like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), immigration and policy changes during 2017 included plans to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from some countries, and expanded deportation enforcement for more long-term residents without criminal records.

Depending upon their standing as U.S. citizens, or residents with permanent, TPS or undocumented status, between 14 percent and 18 percent of the parents surveyed reported that they had been frequently stopped, questioned or harassed by immigration authorities in the past three months, says public health researcher Kathleen M. Roche of George Washington University, who led the study. The results were published March 2 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Parents who reported this difficult experience have eight times the odds of scoring high on a test for anxiety, depression and other symptoms of psychological distress compared with parents who said they were stopped, questioned or harassed less frequently or not at all during the period, the researchers found.

Other experiences or responses linked to immigration policy changes that increased the odds of a parent’s high distress score by as much or even more included reporting that one’s child had been negatively affected by immigration actions, worries about their child finishing school, and having spoken to a child about changing their behavior such as where they spent time after school.

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Lest We Forget — Secret use of census info helped send Japanese Americans to internment camps in WWI I

I thought you might like this story from The Washington Post.

Secret use of census info helped send Japanese Americans to internment camps in WWII
The abuse of data from the 1940 census has fueled fears about a citizenship question on the 2020 census form.


Secret use of census info helped send Japanese Americans to internment camps in WWII

By Lori Aratani

April 6 at 3:59 PM ET

Children at the Manzanar internment camp in California in 1943; photo taken by photographer Toyo Miyatake. (National Park Service/AP)

The Census Bureau plans to ask people if they are U.S. citizens in the 2020 count of the nation’s population, igniting fears that the information could be used to target those in the country illegally.

The decision has become a lightning rod for controversy. More than a dozen states and at least six cities have sued to block the Trump administration from adding the question to the 2020 Census, alleging that it would depress turnout in states with large populations of immigrants. The decennial survey is key to determining how federal funding is spent nationwide.

Census officials said the question is being reinstated for the first time since 1950 to help enforce the Voting Rights Act and that there are safeguards in place to prevent any abuse of the information. It is illegal to release information that would identify individuals or families.

But that does not mean that census data has not been used to target specific populations in the past.

In fact, information from the 1940 Census was secretly used in one of the worst violations of constitutional rights in U.S. history: the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

In papers presented in 2000 and 2007, historian Margo J. Anderson of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and statistician William Seltzer of Fordham University found evidence that census officials cooperated with the government, providing data to target Japanese Americans.

The 1943 film “Japanese Relocation” tried to justify the government’s decision to move people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast to internment camps. (U.S. Office of War Information)

The Japanese American community had long suspected the Census Bureau of playing a role in the push to banish 120,000 Japanese Americans, mostly living on the West Coast, into nearly a dozen internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, according to former commerce secretary Norman Mineta.

Mineta, who lived in San Jose, was 11 when he and his family were sent to live in an internment camp in Heart Mountain, Wyo.

For decades, though, census officials denied that they had played any role in providing information.

According to Anderson and Seltzer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and military intelligence agencies began pushing in late 1939 to relax census confidentiality rules in the hope of accessing data on individuals. But the effort was opposed by Census Bureau Director William Lane Austin.

After the 1940 presidential election, however, Austin was forced to retire. He was replaced by J.C. Capt, who backed efforts to remove confidentiality provisions. Capt’s efforts helped clear the way for other agencies to access the information on Japanese Americans.

In 2000, Anderson and Seltzer found documents that showed officials with the Census Bureau had provided block-level information of where those of Japanese ancestry were living in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Arkansas.

The revelations prompted Kenneth Prewitt, then director of the U.S. Census Bureau, to issue a public apology. Prewitt wrote: “The historical record is clear that senior Census Bureau staff proactively cooperated with the internment, and that census tabulations were directly implicated in the denial of civil rights to citizens of the United States who happened also to be of Japanese ancestry.”

Japanese Americans gather coal left for them at the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming during World War II. (Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Okumoto Collection)

Anderson and Seltzer, however, weren’t finished. They suspected that despite the bureau’s denials, it had also released “microdata” — information about individuals, including names and addresses.

In 2007, they found proof, uncovering documents that showed Census Bureau officials provided names and addresses of individuals of Japanese ancestry in Washington, D.C.

While the Census Bureau had no such record, the pair found the information in records kept by the chief clerk of the Commerce Department. Under the Second War Powers Act, which suspended the confidentiality protections for census data, the chief clerk had the authority to release census data to other agencies. That meant while the information released was not illegal, it was ethically questionable, the researchers said.

The August 4, 1943, request was made by Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau. He had asked for the names and addresses of all individuals of Japanese ancestry living in Washington. Morgenthau had requested the information to aid in a Secret Service investigation of threats made against President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The request was triggered by an incident that had taken place 17 months earlier, when a Japanese American man traveling from Los Angeles to the Manzanar internment camp allegedly said that “we ought to have enough guts to kill Roosevelt.” The man was later committed to a mental hospital for schizophrenia.

In all, information about 79 people in Washington was released, the researchers found. The records did not indicate that personal information was released on Japanese Americans living in other parts of the United States.

The request was filled within seven days — remarkably quick for a government bureaucracy, researchers said at the time.

The few remaining structures of the Heart Mountain Japanese internment camp near Cody, Wyo. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

“It leads us to believe this was a well-established path,” Seltzer told Scientific American in 2007. Starting in March 1942, standard confidentiality protections were suspended under the Second War Powers Act. Confidentiality provisions tied to census data were reinstated in 1947.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation issuing a formal apology for the wartime internment of Japanese Americans. Former internees also received $20,000 in reparations for property seized during the roundups.

The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans, the majority of whom were American citizens, is now considered a stain on American history.

“The Census Bureau doesn’t like to talk about it,” said Prewitt, who served as Census Bureau director from 1998 to 2000. He recalled that when he spoke to a colleague about the issue, he received a terse “Well, it was legal” as a response.

“It was not illegal,” Prewitt added. “But it was certainly inappropriate. It was obvious that the Census Bureau facilitated the roundup.”

In response, a Census Bureau spokesman wrote via email that under the Second War Powers Act officials were “. . . legally required to assist in the war effort.”

“It is important to acknowledge these wartime disclosures, but it is equally important to recognize significant change in the law to protect census data, as well as the other data the Census Bureau collects,” he continued. “The Second War Powers Act was repealed after World War II, while further legal protections for personal data were added and strengthened through legislation passed in the 1950’s and the 1970’s.”

Norman Mineta in 1936. He and his family were interned for several years during World War II.
(Family photo)

Census Bureau officials maintain that there are protections in place to protect individuals who take part in the 2020 Census and emphasized that information cannot be shared with any other agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency or any other government agency. A 1954 law prohibits Census employees from sharing information. Those who break the law can be fined up to $250,000 and could face five years in prison.

“Census responses are safe, secure and protected by federal law,” said a spokesman for the Census Bureau. “Answers can only be used to produce statistics. Individual records are not shared with anyone, including federal agencies and law enforcement entities.”

Even so, that is not enough assurance for some, who cite a series of statements made by the Trump administration.

“Just the nature of this administration makes people that much more wary about what they might be asking about,” said Mineta, the former commerce secretary. “I don’t think there’s much confidence in the ability of this administration to have any credibility in terms of protecting privacy issues. For them that’s just a fishing license. It’s ‘I’m the government, and I should be able to go anywhere.’ ”

Even lawful disclosures can raise alarms. The Census Bureau came under scrutiny in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the bureau gave publicly available information to the Department of Homeland Security about neighborhoods that were home to large numbers of Arab Americans.

Asked whether there are enough safeguards in place to prevent disclosure of personal information from the 2020 Census, Prewitt said, “I have to be agnostic.”

Still, he said: “We do know the mood of Washington with respect to immigration. We have an administration that has said we simply have got to get rid of the people who do not belong here.”

Lori Aratani writes about transportation issues, including how people get around — or don’t. Her beat includes airlines and airports, as well as the agencies that oversee them.

The Russian objective is to make the truth seem unknowable.

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Harassment on Eric Holder’s Watch at DoJ

from the NY Times — lead in the Sunday print edition:


The chief of the Justice Department’s death penalty unit was removed from his post amid questions about grievances against him. CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — When Kevin Carwile arrived to run the Justice Department’s death penalty unit in 2010, he had never prosecuted or sat through an entire capital punishment case. He was moved into the job after overseeing the gangs unit, and some prosecutors worried he lacked the expertise to steer the division.

Now Mr. Carwile has been removed from his post after The New York Times inquired about a series of grievances against him, including complaints that he promoted gender bias and a “sexualized environment.” He fostered a culture of favoritism and sexism, according to court records, internal documents and interviews with more than a half-dozen current and former employees. In one episode, his deputy groped an administrative assistant at a bar in view of their colleagues, according to some who were present. Mr. Carwile asked the witnesses to keep it secret, one said.

Employees of the unit, the capital case section, complained about the issues to Justice Department officials, the inspector general and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at least 12 times. Some allegations went unaddressed for years. In cases that were investigated, the accusers were never told what investigators found. Both Mr. Carwile and his deputy, Gwynn Kinsey, remained Justice Department employees despite the inquiries.

Gwynn Kinsey was Mr. Carwile’s deputy in the division.

Six employees, including the administrative assistant, said they eventually left the section or quit government altogether in part because of the toxic climate. A defendant in Indiana has asked in court for the government to drop the death penalty recommendation in his case because of the unit’s emerging conduct issues.

Mr. Carwile declined to comment. After The Times contacted the Justice Department for this article, he was demoted and detailed to a different division. Through his lawyers, Mr. Kinsey declined to comment.

“The Department of Justice takes these allegations extremely seriously but cannot discuss specific employee disciplinary actions, or comment on internally handled personnel actions or matters that may impact personal privacy,” said Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman. The department confirmed that it referred some allegations made by employees to the inspector general, whose spokesman would not confirm or deny any investigation.

The unit is poised to gain power. President Trump has suggested the United States start executing drug dealers, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has urged prosecutors to seek the death penalty whenever possible in drug-related crimes.

A Mercurial Boss

The Justice Department created the capital case section in 1998 to help the attorney general decide when to apply capital punishment. The section’s prosecutors advise or work with trial teams on cases and a few trials a year. They were involved in some high-profile prosecutions like those of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers, and Dylann S. Roof, who was convicted in 2016 of murdering nine people at an African-American church in South Carolina.

As the death penalty fell out of favor in the United States, the influence of the unit, already one of the smallest in the Justice Department, waned. About half a dozen trial lawyers worked there in the beginning of 2012, along with a lawyer conducting protocol reviews and three others on loan from different parts of the department.

Mr. Carwile had arrived just before the public learned of the Fast and Furious scandal, a botched operation in which agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives let criminals move guns across the border into Mexico to try to build a bigger case. Many of the firearms were later found at crime scenes. Mr. Carwile incorrectly told superiors that the A.T.F. learned about guns moving illegally only after the fact, according to a subsequent inspector general investigation. He was moved from his post as head of the gangs unit to the much smaller capital punishment division.

Kevin Carwile arrived to run the Justice Department’s death penalty division in 2010.

He quickly gained a reputation as a mercurial manager with a hands-off style that bordered on neglect, according to current and former employees. He rarely responded to emails, four former employees said, and in meetings his questions revealed that he had not read their messages.

But after his first year, Mr. Carwile received the Excellence in Management award for the criminal division as the section’s lawyers prosecuted more cases.

In 2013, Jacabed Rodriguez-Coss, a prosecutor who had herself won one of the department’s highest awards, complained to human resources that Mr. Carwile expected her to involuntarily travel far more than her male counterparts.

Though she lived in Connecticut and had cases in Rhode Island and Vermont, he assigned her to one in California. She protested that her family needed her nearby. Her husband, an F.B.I. agent, was one of the first on the scene of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and was confronting the aftermath of having worked on the case.

Ms. Rodriguez-Coss filed a complaint to the E.E.O.C., which notified the Justice Department. Mr. Carwile subsequently suspended permission for her to work from Connecticut. She sued the department in 2016, accusing him of gender discrimination and claiming that her permission to work in Connecticut was taken away in retaliation for her complaints.

Seven men and women from the unit filed declarations in her support. Two male colleagues said that they had not been assigned so much travel. Bruce R. Hegyi, a former prosecutor, wrote that he left because of “plainly unethical and improper conduct.”

He said in his filing that Mr. Carwile promoted “a sexualized environment,” took him to a restaurant with scantily clad waitresses and let a fellow prosecutor show naked photographs of a woman during a work gathering of both men and women.

Other employees said in their declarations that Mr. Carwile held men-only meetings, sent emails only to men and assigned more desirable and high-profile cases to men. “Women only go to law school to find rich husbands,” he said, according to a declaration filed by one lawyer, Amanda Haines.

Under Mr. Carwile, there was incentive “not to stir things up,” said Kevin Little, the lawyer representing Ms. Rodriguez-Coss.

“My client and other of her colleagues feared retaliation,” he said.

The Justice Department said in its response that Ms. Rodriguez-Coss’s claims “boil down to her admitted refusal to perform the essential requirements of her position,” which included taking on cases that required travel.

Life-or-Death Cases in the Balance

Around the same time, Ms. Haines, who worked as a federal prosecutor for 18 years before joining the division, alerted Mr. Carwile to persistent work-quality issues, warnings that she later described in a court filing.

In one case in Pennsylvania, she said, she received no files describing the government’s work by the previous prosecutor, despite numerous requests, and dozens of boxes with discovery materials had sat unreviewed.

She told Mr. Carwile and Mr. Kinsey, but the problem went unaddressed. Her colleague instead received a plum assignment: the Boston Marathon bombing trial.

In the Indiana case, Ms. Haines said her predecessor interviewed over a dozen witnesses without a law enforcement officer or other witness present, an error that could jeopardize the government’s work. She said in a legal filing that the prosecutor, who later won a departmental award, destroyed his interview notes, which he initially denied but later acknowledged.

After Ms. Haines took her concerns to Mr. Carwile, a colleague shared them in an email with Sung-Hee Suh, then the deputy assistant attorney general.

Ms. Haines also described the errors in a declaration filed in Ms. Rodriguez-Coss’s lawsuit. After her accusations became public, defense lawyers in the Indiana case pushed back on the government’s recommendation to seek the death penalty for their client, Andrew Rogers, a felon accused of tying up his cellmate and stabbing him to death.

The notes the prosecutor is accused of destroying could have been the difference “between a verdict for life and a verdict for death,” the defense wrote in a brief in January.

“If you pull on the thread, who knows how many cases could be impacted?” said Mr. Little, Ms. Rodriguez-Coss’s lawyer.

A portion of a brief filed by defense lawyers for Andrew Rogers, a felon accused of tying up his cellmate and stabbing him to death.

‘Unwelcome Liberties’

Two years ago, another prosecutor in the section, Ann Carroll, was asked to travel for work after she had surgery. Around that time, she learned that a male colleague was allowed to forgo travel to accommodate his gluten intolerance.

“Over the 20 years I had worked at the Department of Justice, I had never experienced a complete lack of sensitivity in the immediate aftermath of a serious medical illness,” Ms. Carroll wrote in a declaration. “I felt Mr. Carwile’s response was arbitrary, and gender-based.” She quit that June.

Before departing, Ms. Carroll said she described ethical violations to Ms. Suh, prompting a management review. Four former and current employees said in court declarations and to The Times that they told Ms. Suh and James Mann, the chief of staff to the head of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, about the mishandled cases, sexualized culture and gender bias.

Ms. Suh ultimately said that Mr. Carwile and Mr. Kinsey, as a result of the review, were “now doing their best,” according to Mr. Hegyi’s declaration, and she concluded that employees were unhappy because they wanted to work from home, to choose between trials and case reviews, and to be given more ways to bring concerns to management.

Her conclusions dumbfounded employees who said they had shared more serious grievances. A person briefed on the matter said they were not told of steps being taken to address complaints because those were confidential.

Ms. Suh, who now works at the asset manager Pimco, said she could not comment on the details of pending litigation or personnel matters. “Any allegations of misconduct, discrimination, harassment or bias actually brought to my attention were fully and fairly investigated and addressed appropriately,” she said.

The years of warnings that their bosses had ignored or condoned misconduct came to a head last May. During a work-sanctioned happy hour at a restaurant near the Justice Department, colleagues watched Mr. Kinsey grope the administrative assistant, Alyssa tenBroek.

“Mr. Kinsey, who is a married man, began to take what seemed very clearly to be unwelcome liberties of a physical, sexual nature,” Luke Woolman, an intern at the time, wrote in his declaration. He said Mr. Kinsey repeatedly touched Ms. tenBroek, whom he identified as A.T., “inappropriately, openly and obviously” in front of patrons, Mr. Carwile and at least one other Justice Department prosecutor.

Mr. Woolman and the prosecutor, Sonia Jimenez, suggested everyone go home, he later told Ms. Haines. Ms. Jimenez tried to discourage Mr. Kinsey from trying to persuade Ms. tenBroek to go to a hotel with him, according to an internal memo by Ms. Haines.

A portion of the declaration by Luke Woolman, an intern at the time in the death penalty division.

As the night wound down, Mr. Carwile pulled aside Mr. Woolman and asked him not to tell anyone what he had seen.

“He sternly reiterated his request, specifically stating that he was being serious,” Mr. Woolman wrote.

Fallout From a Night Out

After that night, tensions in the unit exploded into view. Ms. tenBroek showed colleagues text messages from Mr. Kinsey in which he offered to give her money, pay her bills or take her on a trip. He also sent her photos of herself that he had downloaded from the internet.

He signed off “XOXOXOX,” according to Ms. Haines’s memo. In other messages, he appeared to apologize.

Ms. tenBroek later told Ms. Haines and Julie Mosley, another prosecutor, that Mr. Kinsey groped her again in the cab and tried to coerce her into checking into a hotel.

Ms. Mosley told the E.E.O.C., and Ms. Haines sent her memo to superiors at the Justice Department. “I trust you will give this matter the serious attention it deserves,” she wrote. Mr. Woolman said in a court filing that he shared his story with Mr. Mann and an investigator from the inspector general’s office.

Ms. tenBroek did not dispute her co-workers’ accounts and said in a statement that she had participated in the department’s “lengthy and taxing” complaint process. She has since left the agency.

“I have always wanted to pursue a career with the Department of Justice, but it failed me when I reported misconduct,” she said. “No woman should feel compelled to deal with the pervasive harassment that I experienced, much less have her complaint be effectively disregarded.”

The department’s inspector general began investigating, and Mr. Kinsey was demoted and moved to another division. He is appealing. A person close to Mr. Kinsey said that evidence in another investigation is favorable to him, but would not say who was conducting that inquiry.

Current and former employees said the public understandably expects death penalty cases to be handled with integrity. As Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump push for more capital punishments, the section’s history, they say, could work against the Justice Department.

The same month as the happy hour, the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, sent a memo to Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. Sexual harassment, he wrote, “profoundly affects the victim and affects the agency’s reputation, undermines the agency’s credibility, and lowers employee productivity and morale.”

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Virginia Institute of Marine Studies (VIMS) study shows seas rising faster than thought

[VIMS is now calculating sea level rise at 32 sites around the USA and Alaska.

From the standpoint of:
1) Our special concern for the Chesapeake Bay;
2) The strategic importance of the Bay and its immediate environs to the United States; and
3) The geological complexity of the Bay’s response to multiple sea level rise factors (glacier bounce-back, meteor impact site, and water temperature vagaries in the Bay)
the TWO sites in the Chesapeake Bay (Norfolk and Baltimore) are inadequate for planning sea level responses for the coastal Chesapeake Bay.
The VIMS website for this study is at <> bp ]


Virginia Institute of Marine Studies (VIMS) study shows seas rising faster than thought

By Chris HornePublished: March 13, 2018, 6:26 pm Updated: March 13, 2018, 6:40 pm

GLOUCESTER POINT, Va. (WAVY) – A new study from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science shows how much our sea level is expected to rise in the next 30 years.

The VIMS study predicts a rise of nearly 20 inches at Sewell’s Point by the year 2050. ODU Oceanographer Larry Atkinson reviewed the study, and says its chief author is one of the best authorities on sea level rise in the world.

“It’s really been the life work of Dr. John Boon over at VIMS,” Atkinson said. “(The sea level) seems to be rising a bit faster than we thought five or ten years ago.”

View the sea level report here

Read the announcement from VIMS here

That’ll mean more locations will flood, and the ones that already do will be deeper and last longer.

“When we have a large hurricane come by and there’s storm surge, or a nor’easter like right now, we’ll see more flooding,” Atkinson said. “The region is starting to take action. There will be large structures built to help mitigate some of this.”

Christy Everett of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation calls the VIMS study concerning, and talked about smaller-scale plans to address sea level rise, which she sees as more environmentally conscious.

On the campus of the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, Everett showed us what are called pervious pavers and plantings called bio-swales.

“When the rain comes through, it goes between the pavers and into the ground and back to the aquifer,” Everett said.

The pavers are designed to re-direct storm surge, and the bio-swales are designed to retain it. “So it could prevent it from flooding a parking lot, destroying cars, things like that.”

Atkinson says sea level rise comes from a number of factors, including climate change, sinking land and expanding ocean waters from ice and glacier melt.

Several agencies are working on plans to mitigate sea level rise,including the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Commonwealth Center for Coastal Flooding Resiliency, a joint collaboration among VIMS, ODU and William and Mary’s Law School.

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