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Climate Crisis Is Coming for the Tidal Basin in DC

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At high tide, people are forced off parts of the pathway surrounding DC's Tidal Basin. Andrew Bossi / Wikimedia

By Sarah Kennedy

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC overlooks the Tidal Basin, a man-made body of water surrounded by cherry trees. Visitors can stroll along the water's edge, gazing up at the stately monument.

But at high tide, people are forced off parts of the path. Twice a day, the Tidal Basin floods and water spills onto the walkway.


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One problem is that the land is sinking. But as the climate warms, sea levels are also rising. And the flooding gets even worse during extreme storms, which are growing more common.

"The whole entire National Mall sits in the 100-year flood plain, so it's particularly vulnerable to all the challenges that we face," says Teresa Durkin, executive vice president of the Trust for the National Mall.

To start addressing the problem, the Trust has brought together five design firms to re-imagine the Tidal Basin's future.

"Perhaps the Tidal Basin gets smaller," Durkin says. "Perhaps some of the pathways become bridges. Maybe, perhaps, we'll create some new wetlands here."

She says preserving this national treasure in its current form is no longer an option.

"There's got to be new thinking about how we do things and how we protect these important places," she says.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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