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Report: Surging Seas Pose Continued Threats to Connecticut

A new report highlights the vulnerabilities of Connecticut coastal ecosystems if rising sea levels are not addressed. (David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliot/Flickr)
A new report highlights the vulnerabilities of Connecticut coastal ecosystems if rising sea levels are not addressed. (David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliot/Flickr)
August 22, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. – Over the past half century, Connecticut's coastline has risen nearly 6 inches.

And a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) estimates sea levels will rise by 6 feet or more by the end of this century if steps aren't taken soon to slow climate change.

Amber Hewett, the NWF's northeast regional campaign coordinator, says her group's research shows coastal areas are being challenged by warming water temperatures and erosion as well as rising sea levels.

Threats to the ecologically diverse Barn Island Wildlife Management Area are highlighted in the report.

"The area that we zoom in on is likely to be particularly vulnerable with increased saltwater inundation of freshwater areas that communities and wildlife depend on,” Hewett points out. “They're seeing evidence of black gum trees dying off and of course, salt marshes are being pushed inland."

Hewett says surging waters also increase the severity of storms that harm the environment and economies.

According to the report, recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy topped $280 million in federal disaster assistance.

Hewett explains nearly 30 percent of marshland in Connecticut has already been lost to human development, and efforts to restore damaged wetlands began in the 1930s.

"There are incredible success stories all along the coast and in Connecticut,” she states. “The Department of Environmental Protection really is recognized as a national leader in tidal wetland restoration. Over 1,700 acres have been restored in Connecticut."

The report suggests a two-pronged approach to combat sea level rise, starting with adaptation strategies.

Shannon Heyck-Williams, the NWF’s senior manager of climate and energy Policy, says mitigation is even more important – reducing the root causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

"We can't adapt our way out of this problem,” she stresses. “Sea levels are rising and they're predicted to increase dramatically, and we need to do what we can to cut the pollution that fuels the sea level rise, as quickly as possible."

Heyck-Williams maintains the Obama administration has taken important steps already to promote clean power and transportation, and should finish new rules to cut pollution in the oil and gas industry.

But she adds significant work remains for the next Congress and president to reduce pollution throughout the economy.



Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - CT