Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rivers' Shores Risk Floods as Sea Rises; A Study Predicts Water Levels' Financial Effects in the Coming Decades

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rivers' Shores Risk Floods as Sea Rises; A Study Predicts Water Levels' Financial Effects in the Coming Decades

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE PATTERSON

Rising sea levels could swamp shorelines of the St. Johns and Nassau rivers within a couple of decades, according to Florida State University researchers.

Their projections show that more than 1,850 acres in Duval County -- a bit less than 3 square miles -- could be submerged by 2030. That would mostly be marshy, undeveloped property -- none at the beach -- representing a modest financial loss.

But port facilities at Blount Island and Baptist Medical Center in downtown Jacksonville could be threatened between 2030 and 2080, according to the projections. So could some houses on Black Hammock Island and on western parts of the Trout River, as well as small patches elsewhere.

The value of land lost could range from $10 million to $572 million under widely diverging projections, the most aggressive showing about 29 square miles under water by 2080.

By comparison, Miami-Dade County's losses in the same period are projected at between $1 billion and $12 billion.

The figures represent the most detailed public effort yet to measure financial impacts of rising seas. The work was done in conjunction with a report on responding to climate change that a state panel delivered Wednesday to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Higher seas also will lead to more destructive storm surges occurring more frequently, said Julie Harrington, director of FSU's Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis.

For example, a storm like Hurricane Frances, which roughed up Florida in 2004, would produce up to 36 percent more surge damage in Duval County once water levels rose, the report said.

Rising seas would carry other problems, including more potential for salt intrusion into aquifers that supply drinking water, said Pete Johnson, an organizer on climate change issues for Audubon of Florida.

He said higher water levels would keep drainage systems from working as they were designed, and that birds and other wildlife would lose habitat.

"The report obviously brings it home to Duval County," Johnson said. He promotes steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that many scientists have linked to rising temperatures and sea levels. …

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