Will nature win again? Experts concerned about rising sea levels

Experts concerned about rising sea levels

Experts predict ocean water will continue to encroach on New Jersey's beaches, as is the case here in southern Long Beach Township in 2009. File photo
With the ocean and bays on the rise, coastal New Jersey’s future looks very, very wet.

Natural areas will shift inland as the sea level rises, but “developed communities are just going to be slowly drowned through time,” said Norbert P. Psuty, professor emeritus at Rutgers University.

“The water just keeps coming up,” and coastal communities will see more and more flooding of roads and development, said Psuty, whose life’s work has been studying shorelines, beaches, dunes and sea-level rise.

The sea level has been rising for thousands of years. But the rate is accelerating as a result of climate change, and coastal areas are increasingly vulnerable to devastating storms like superstorm Sandy, according to experts.

Restoring beaches and dunes, building seawalls and elevating homes can buy some time. But eventually, nature will win, and the only solution is to move away from dangerous, flood-prone areas, experts say.

Indeed, it’s only a matter of time before an even bigger storm than Sandy comes along, riding on top of higher sea levels, they say.

Sandy isn’t “the Big One,” said John A. Miller, a flooding expert who chairs the legislative committee of the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management, a nonprofit group.

A storm striking the coast and dumping more rain “would be absolutely devastating to the State of New Jersey,” he said.

Eleanor Tedesco is one of the hundreds of New Jersey residents who want to move away from the water in Sandy’s catastrophic wake.

She lived happily in her waterfront home in Little Egg Harbor for nearly 50 years.

Then Sandy struck on Oct. 29, inundating her neighborhood and other low-lying areas in the Garden State.

“I lost my home completely, and the whole area is devastated,” said Tedesco, a retiree who is living temporarily with a cousin in Barnegat.