To the editor: Climate change and sea level rise pose very serious threats to Barrington. The Rhode Island General Assembly has established guidelines requiring towns and cities to include natural hazards and climate change adaptation in their comprehensive plans.
Barrington began this process in mid July by convening a small committee of planning board members to accomplish this gargantuan task. The completed plans are due by the end of the year — a very short window for so much work!
It is a huge undertaking but there is no avoiding it and no options for half measures. The people of Barrington rely on the town to effectively address, wherever possible, the pressing issues of personal safety and protection of property. Furthermore, they deserve to be informed about the risks that lie ahead (http://www.riclimatechange.org) and how the town is planning to address them.
Barrington is one of the lowest lying towns in the state with 17 miles of coastline, 7 rivers, 4 ponds and lakes, many streams.
Air temperature is rising (1.7 degrees F since 2006 — highest globally), ocean and coastal water temperatures are warming (4 degrees F — highest in New England), sea level rise is accelerating (Newport: 2.6 mm per year since 1930), storm intensity is increasing, rain and snowfall is increasing (by 32 percent between 1905 and 2006), coastal and ocean waters are becoming more acidic with physical and biological impacts.
Flooding and shoreline erosion are the greatest dangers. We have already seen what storm driven rainfall can do to our town — to our roads and our property. Imagine a flood closing the Wampanoag Trail, and Route 114 after the bridge at the American Tourister building in Warren, and the White Church Bridge. Think of the New Meadow Road area, the lowest lying land in town already prone to severe flooding, or Mathewson Road and the houses that line it already threatened by storm driven coastal flooding, or water from over-topped streams pouring into basements and first floors of nearby houses.
Erosion is already a constant menace in Barrington, gobbling up coastal properties. Salt marshes inundated by rising, storm driven coastal waters will migrate further inland onto low-lying land now occupied by residences (http://www.beachsamp.org/issues). Marsh migration due to projected sea level rise will affect houses along the Palmer River and Allin’s Cove. Imagine what a five-foot rise will do (http://ssrf.climatecentral.org/).
What to do? Sign the petition to the town manager, town planner and town council. Insist that Barrington adhere exactly to the State Natural Hazard Guidelines. Attend planning board meetings and meetings of the planning committee to ensure that this is done and that you will be watching to see that the new guidelines are implemented.