Press Release | February 3, 2022

New web tool digs into development decisions and flooding

Interactive tool reveals how the area’s infrastructure will fare in a wetter future

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A new website and interactive mapping tool released today by the Southern Environmental Law Center will allow citizens, activists and policymakers to look at how both current and proposed infrastructure will fare in a wetter future as sea-level rise and climate change reshape the Southeast coast.

The Changing Coast web site conveniently concentrates an array of climate data into a single interface. The project’s goal is to show citizens and decision-makers how the coast is changing, and how proposed infrastructure projects like highways, neighborhoods, and government or industrial facilities will fare as the water keeps rising and floods get worse.

For example, the site’s users will be able to see how:

  • The roads leading to the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge in North Carolina could be flooded on sunny days in the future if sea level climbs just two feet, rendering the span useless.
  • A proposed spaceport on the Georgia coast could be submerged by a Category 2 hurricane.
  • A 21-million-ton pile of toxic coal ash on the banks of the Mobile River in Alabama could likewise be threatened by Category 2 hurricane, and that threat only increases as sea levels continue to rise. A breach could spread toxic ash into the river, through the Tensaw Delta, and into Mobile Bay.
  • A proposed 9,000-acre housing development in Charleston could flood now with just a Category 1 hurricane. And rising seas could put parts of the development underwater before the mortgages are paid off.
  • Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay could be submerged now by the storm surge of a Category 1 hurricane, or by the bay in the coming years if the sea level rises just two feet.

“This tool and the data behind it will show you where water will be in the coming years,” said Chris DeScherer, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It will also reveal how proposed subdivisions and infrastructure will fare as sea levels continue to climb. The goal is to help guide decisions for the future, and to plan smart strategies to protect what exists now.”

The Changing Coast designers incorporated about a dozen databases to show a comprehensive picture of how future flooding will affect coastal Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

If you would like to schedule a Zoom session with a SELC geospatial or science analyst to discuss how this tool could assist your reporting on flooding and climate change, please reach out to Mike Mather through the contact information in the header.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.