By: Will Van Vactor
Rising sea levels pose threats to coastal communities across the globe, including here in Oregon. A recent article and a podcast from earlier this year highlight those challenges and discuss the controversial strategy of "managed retreat".
High Country News recently published an article titled "Can a California Town Move Back from the Sea?" The annual King Tide in Imperial Beach, California put the community on alert regarding the risk of rising sea levels decades ago. That hasn't made addressing the issue any easier.
According to the article, "[m]anaged retreat represents a planned move away from the coast, allowing the beach to erode for the forces of nature to take over." Of course, not all property owners are willing to move away and sell their land. So, managed retreat can lead to a "political quagmire." In Imperial Beach, even with King Tide alerting the community to the threat a rising sea brings decades ago, the debate over how to best address the threat remains
And in early 2018, the podcast 99% Invisible discussed the managed retreat of a single building in North Carolina. In an episode titled "Managed Retreat", the podcast discussed the relocation of the lighthouse near Cape Hatteras as a result of the sea threatening to "swallow it up." Although the story only involved the relocation of a single building (not several city blocks), it represents the political challenges managed retreat poses. In fact, it took 30 years of political debate before the lighthouse was finally relocated.
Rising seal levels pose a threat to Oregon coastal communities. Managed retreat is only one strategy for dealing with that threat. As was the case in Imperial Beach and Cape Hatteras, the policy debate over how best to protect Oregon's coastal communities, including related land use development, will likely take many years to resolve.
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