Letters to the Editor

Frank Gorham: Sea-level report comprehensive, helpful for future planning

Regarding the July 10 Point of View “Dangerous delays and delusions”: I strongly disagree with the characterization of the report on sea-level rise and Orrin and Keith Pilkey’s assertion that North Carolina has not done proper planning in response to projected sea-level rise.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s charge to the N.C Coastal Resources Commission was to protect the delicate balance between environmental protection and the desire for development. Studies such as the commission’s report on sea-level rise are important tools that help us achieve that balance.

The report, prepared by our Science Panel, looks 30 years into the future and uses the most up-to-date scientific research and long-term tide gauge data to project rates of sea-level rise for the North Carolina coast. It makes those projections for five areas along the coast, rather than projecting one single rate of rise for the entire state. That’s important because the geology of our coastline is very different from north to south.

I believe North Carolina is the first state in the country to look at sea-level rise from that perspective, and I’m proud to say that our distinguished panel members did a remarkable job in preparing this report.

The report is an important tool that coastal local governments can use for planning. It gives a range of sea-level values that might occur by 2045 across the North Carolina coast and can help planners estimate risks associated with sea-level rise and accompanying coastal flooding during that time.

With our 320 miles of oceanfront beaches and more than 12,000 miles of estuarine shoreline, we should certainly be aware of what the future could hold. Our focus now should be on nonregulatory, planning-based approaches to this problem, recognizing that many programs that are already in place to address coastal erosion and flooding will also assist in protecting against potential sea-level rise.

When the commission was directed to perform this study, our goal was to come up with a process that was as credible and objective as possible. We received many public comments along the way and included those as part of the report.

We also created a Technical Peer Review Group made up of two well-respected national experts on sea-level rise, Drs. Robert Dean and James Houston, who provided us with an external perspective and thoughtful commentary. I think the result is a pragmatic, useful look at what the future might hold for coastal North Carolina.

The most current report is available online at nccoastalmanagement.net. The Science Panel will continue to update the report every five years. The science is constantly evolving, and we’re collecting more data that will help us continue to make better and more accurate projections, and that will help us make better plans for the future.

Frank Gorham

Chair, North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission


The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the Point of View.