The Charlestown Town Council is about to consider a poorly written ordinance creating a Climate Resiliency Commission. The proposed ordinance contains no objectives, no definitions, some standard bylaws, and just a string of generic phrases for “duties” in paragraph 12.7. This ordinance is so vague I believe it will generate a lot of words and waste taxpayer money but accomplish very little in return.
People will try to rebut my opening paragraph by claiming the commission is needed to identify the problems and propose solutions due to climate change. Climate change is a very broad and controversial subject. Let’s be honest with ourselves, our main concern is, and will continue to be, the rising sea level, i.e. shoreline mitigation. Let’s concentrate on it. This commission will probably advocate worthless temporary solutions for sea level rising such as: elevate or build dikes around our buildings and roads, tank in potable water for our contaminated drinking water, and pump out sewage from our elevated septic systems. It doesn’t take rocket science or even a commission to come up with these solutions. What’s the point of elevating a house or surrounding it with a dike — to watch the sea level rise? I foresee this unnecessary commission wasting the taxpayers’ money recommending these temporary short-term losers, which will divert energy from beneficial problem-solving.
Charlestown has a choice: either be realistic and accept Mother Nature is going to win and therefore retreat/relocate, or foolishly waste money trying to hold back the rising sea. I live only about 200 yards from a salt pond. I have the same concerns as others living along the coast, but I still don’t want money wasted on building sand castles against the tide, nor should anybody who lives inland have to support these pointless delaying schemes.
I’m tired of hearing the big scare tactic — Charlestown must maintain the shoreline in order to keep our taxes low. There will always be a shoreline! I don’t want the town trying to maintain the existing shoreline at my or others’ expense. In the future my house might be on this new shoreline. But that new shoreline will have just as many big expensive houses that can be heavily taxed, so our current tax base will remain preserved.
Warren, R.I., has faced reality (read Providence Journal article dated Nov. 7-8, 2021). They are being very pragmatic; they realize they can’t win against the rising sea level, so they have an 80-year plan to relocate part of their town inland as the shoreline continues to erode. Their plan is to start voluntary buybacks of houses and cease building in the flooding area. Initial estimates of costs of the first phases are $138 million (funded by other agencies, besides the town); a very expensive solution, but apt to be very successful in the long run.
Charlestown needs to start working on the same long-term concept as Warren by restricting all new construction or expansions south of Route 1 and saving money for future permanent solutions. Any study or commission should have shoreline mitigation as a very clear, specific objective. A Climate Resiliency Commission will only create false hopes that will waste money, resources, and time fighting against the inevitable.
Steven J. Williams