By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Climate change and sea level rise may have fatal consequences for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, forcing the Navy to relocate the second oldest navy school in the United States by 2100, says a retired naval commander.
“The Academy and Annapolis already are experiencing the effects of climate change. Annapolis has seen the highest increased rate of coastal flooding in the United States,” Retired Navy Commander Pat Patterson wrote in the October edition of Proceedings, a magazine published by the US Naval Institute.
Maryland state officials say sea levels around Annapolis have risen about a foot over the past 100 years and, according to scientists, rising sea levels and intense storms are likely to flood the land the Academy has occupied since 1845 by the end of the century.
Commander Patterson, currently a professor at the National Defense University, in Washington, DC, explains that the Naval Academy is surrounded by water on three sides.
“Parts of the Academy adjacent to the water stand just over three feet above the water line. The highest position (nearly 40 feet above the water line) on the Academy is the former Navy Health Clinic at Hospital Point,” says the retired navy commander.
In 2018, Annapolis’ downtown area flooded about once a week from high tides, threatening businesses along the City Dock and Market Street.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, by 2050 cities by the ocean front, such as Annapolis, will flood ‘daily rather than weekly’.
Patterson notes that the Naval Academy at Annapolis is not the only military base in danger. “The Academy is only one of scores of U.S. military bases that may be swallowed by rising seas,” says the professor.
According to the Patterson, a study requested by the Chief of the Naval Operations showed that more than fifty of the over 1,200 military bases in the United States that are at ‘high risk’ or ‘very high risk’ from climate threats are Navy bases.
The former commander says the most at-risk installations include Naval Air Station Key West in Florida, Naval Air Station Oceana/Dam Neck in Virginia, and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, in South Carolina.
But to mitigate the effects of climate change, the Academy has already started taking steps to keep rising waters out of the military area, says Patterson.
Door dams and flood barriers on doorways have started to be put in and back-flow preventers in storm drain systems have been installed to reduce flooding.
The Academy’s newest buildings will have elevated entrances and limited first-floor openings to keep out rising water.
Navy officials are also considering installing giant underground reservoirs to capture storm water until floodwaters recede, says Patterson.
But the biggest protective measure the Academy will take, says the former Navy commander, is improving the seawall that extends around three-quarters of the yard’s perimeter. The plan is to construct a 2-to-4-foot extension on top of the existing seawall that can be raised as conditions worsen.
On Saturday (October 12th), unseasonably high tides and subtropical storm Melissa, which has stopped just outside the Northeastern seaboard, caused flooding once again in downtown Annapolis.
Due to the flooding the United States Sailboat Show on Saturday was closed earlier than scheduled.