Report: Most Coastal States Are Poorly Equipped to Respond to Rising Seas and Extreme Weather
By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn
The Surfrider Foundation released the 2017 State of the Beach Report Card, which evaluates U.S. states and territories on their policies to protect our nation's beaches from coastal erosion, haphazard development and sea level rise. The results reveal that 22 out of 30 states, and the territory of Puerto Rico, are performing at adequate to poor levels, with the lowest grades located in regions that are most heavily impacted by extreme weather events. Surfrider's report card clearly denotes that not only do the majority of states need to make improvements, but they also require continued support at the federal level for the Coastal Zone Management Act and funding for agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to protect our coastlines for the future.
About 40 percent of our nation resides along America's unique coastlines. Healthy beaches fuel coastal tourism and recreation economies that are worth more than $100 billion and provide 2.15 million jobs nationwide. However, beaches are disappearing at an alarming rate, due to both natural processes and human intervention. Coastal erosion causes approximately $500 million in coastal property loss annually in the U.S., including damage to structures and loss of land. To mitigate erosion impacts, the federal government spends an average of $150 million every year on beach replenishment and other shoreline erosion control measures. In addition, scientists predict that sea levels could potentially increase up to six feet by 2100, which would impact coastal economies, public access, recreation and healthy ecosystems.
In response, Surfrider has produced the State of the Beach Report Card to serve as a tool to empower concerned citizens to work with coastal municipalities and ensure that their local communities actively protect coastal resources. The report is also intended to provide a basis for decision-makers and agencies to form proactive, long-term solutions for increased coastal protection for the future.
- Surfrider's report finds that only eight states are doing a "fair or better" job (e.g., earned grade of A or B based on relevant criteria) of protecting beaches.
- The states scoring higher had strong policies regarding coastal building setbacks, prohibitions against coastal armoring and rebuilding in coastal hazard areas, and support for incorporating sea level rise and coastal adaptation into planning documents.
- More than 22 states assessed are doing a "barely adequate to poor" job (with an earned grade of C or less). These states tend to have less stringent policies regarding development in hazardous coastal zones, sediment management, no prohibitions on coastal armoring, and/or little in the way of policies that require the incorporation of sea level rise projections into coastal planning.
- The latest science and frequent coastal damage from storms show that our nation's beaches are under siege and highly vulnerable to erosion.
- The report findings underscore why NOAA's Coastal Management Program must be adequately funded to support stewardship of our nation's beaches.
- Most of the states that experience extreme weather events lack solid coastal preservation and sea level rise policies.
As a result of the assessments and recommendations provided by Surfrider's State of the Beach Report Card, it is our responsibility to work together to drive awareness of the increasing challenges facing our nation's coasts and improve local, state and federal government responses to erosion and sea level rise, to protect our ocean, waves and beaches for the future.
Hundreds of endangered sea turtles were stranded on beaches after suffering "cold stunning" in the waters off Cape Cod, Mass. Local rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators stabilized the turtles at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and National Marine Life Center and began treatment. Many of the sea turtles were transported by land or air to partner facilities around the Eastern Seaboard for longer-term care to make room for more incoming, cold-stunned animals.
Rehabilitators at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys assess critically endangered, cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles flown in after rescue in New England. The Turtle Hospital<p>NEAQ and local rescuers begin seeing turtles every fall when water temperatures drop to that 50 degrees F threshold, and typically expect to find them into early January. After that, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sea-turtle-cape-cod-weather-2621527394.html" target="_self">temperatures are so cold that any animals found are usually no longer alive</a>.</p><p>Merigo estimated that this year's cold season "looks very busy" and noted that local rescue efforts had already surpassed 400 turtles.</p><p>"It is a lot of animals. They're still coming in," she told EcoWatch as she surveyed 39 rescued turtles that day and 20 the day prior. "So far, this is a huge year."</p><p>At NEAQ, the turtles are gradually warmed up about five to 10 degrees F a day. More aggressive warming can cause serious damage and the turtle might not survive, Merigo said. Emergency treatments also include providing replacement fluids, balancing electrolytes and addressing pneumonia. Assessments take place for other serious problems too, such as shell or limb fractures, frostbite, emaciation and eye damage.<span></span></p><p>As local aquariums don't have the capacity to care for all the injured turtles, a group of private pilots called <a href="https://www.turtlesflytoo.org/" target="_blank">"Turtles Fly Too"</a> donated planes, fuel and time to transport some to various partner facilities around the country. Other turtles were driven to closer care facilities.</p><p>"We have a huge network of really great partners working with us, so if we can spread out the care, we can give better care to all the animals," Merigo said.</p><p>The 40 Kemp's ridley sea turtles recovering in The Turtle Hospital will continue to be treated and rehabilitated anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on the severity of injuries, Zirkelbach said.</p><p>The turtle expert noted that while she's treated cold-stunned turtles from the north before, the newest arrivals were the most cold-stunned Kemp's ridleys ever received at one time.</p>
After rescue, cold-stunned sea turtles received immediate emergency care and assessments at the New England Aquarium. Caitlin Cunningham / New England Aquarium<p>In the past decade, the Gulf of Maine, which spans from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has warmed 99 percent faster than the rest of the ocean, Zirkelbach said. The warm water encourages turtles that migrate north along the Gulf Stream in warmer months to stay in the bay longer.</p><p>"Turtles that fail to migrate south get stuck in the unique horseshoe-shaped topography of the Cape Cod peninsula, and when temperatures drop, the bay becomes a death trap," she added.</p><p>Before ocean temperatures warmed, the waters of Maine were too cold for many of these sea turtles, Merigo echoed. Now, with warming sea surface temperatures, Maine can reach the high 70s to low 80s, which is "perfect turtle temperature," she said. The potential for more turtles getting trapped in the bay and then cold-stunned is nerve-racking for Merigo.</p><p>In addition to shifting habitats as waters warm, warming global temperatures also disrupt natural gender balance in sea turtles, Merigo warned. Gender is determined by the temperature of eggs in nests, and as the planet warms, it will result in all females at some point, she said.</p><p>"The turtles we work with are all endangered and threatened," Merigo said. "For sea turtles in general, the future is a little grim. Climate change is real; it does impact them."</p>
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