So, I am in Sea Isle City, New Jersey on a family vacation. I am getting too much sun, eating too much food, drinking too much wine and spending too much money. Definition of a vacation. I am here with four generations – my mother, my sister, my daughter and my granddaughters. We’ve been coming down here to the Jersey Shore for 40 years.
Sea Isle City sits on Ludlam Island, a barrier island – elevation seven feet. It is the narrowest of the Jersey barrier islands and has a low elevation beach. It already regularly experiences dune breaches and storm overwash during intense nor’easters and hurricanes. Sea Isle deals with moderate chronic flooding during summer thunderstorms.
Yesterday, I read that because our warming planet is melting glaciers and polar ice, sea level on the Atlantic coast is rising much faster than predicted. Along a 600-mile stretch of Atlantic coast from Boston to North Carolina the sea is rising much faster than the global sea level rise. Scientists predict that by 2100, global sea levels will rise two to three feet. The faster rise along the Atlantic coast will add another foot to sea level rise here. That will put Ludlam Island a scant three feet above sea level.
There is a lot of expensive real estate on this island. Vacation houses are crammed cheek by jowl on the beach front and along the blocks between the beach and the bay. Now people deal with the flooding by building living spaces above ground level garages and making repairs after each event. Earlier this year, Sea Isle City completed a $9 million beach replenishment project; 75 percent of the cost will be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
As the sea rises, Sea Isle will be fighting a losing battle against the water. There just will not be enough money to keep the tides at bay. To buy real estate here as a long-term investment requires a state of denial about the inevitable fate of any structures built on this island.
My eldest granddaughter, Lindsey, is 10 years old. If she has a child when she is 30 years old and her child has a child when she is 30 years old, it will be 2072 when her granddaughter is 10. The Sea Isle beach houses will be sinking derelicts, wrecked by wind and waves and undermined by the relentless rise of the sea. She will tell her granddaughter of those long ago summers on Sea Isle’s beaches and explain that her grandmother’s generation did not act in time to save those summers for her.