The Chesapeake Bay is on the front lines of sea level rise. Due to the dual problems of sinking land and climate change, waters are rising faster in the Bay region than any place else on the Atlantic coast (Source: U.S. Geological Survey, "Land Subsidence and Relative Sea Level Rise in the Southern Chesapeake Bay Region," 2013). Low-lying Hampton Roads, Virginia, is particularly vulnerable, rated second only to New Orleans as the largest population center at risk from sea level rise in the country.
To raise awareness about natural strategies to manage sea level rise, in December 2015 CBF hired Thomas Quattlebaum as our first Sea Level Rise Fellow. Based in Hampton Roads, Quattlebaum is working to make local leaders aware of natural solutions such as living shorelines, which can often hold floodwater and protect land as effectively as their traditional concrete counterparts. Many times, these natural solutions come at a fraction of the cost, and offer the dual benefit of improving water quality, as the vegetation used in these techniques naturally filters pollution.
Already, Quattlebaum has made progress. He has met with more than 50 decision makers and key stakeholders, and has organized several training courses for city planners. Through this work, we hope to help our leaders see that although sea level rise is a challenge, we can use it as an opportunity to make our communities more resilient, our waterways cleaner, and lead the way for other coastal areas—throughout the Bay and beyond.
Photo Credit: 1. Morgan Heim ILICP, 2. Thomas Quattlebaum, 3. NOAA, 4. Jay Fleming.