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I believe sea level is rising, but there is another contributing geological factor that is being ignored that needs to be addressed. This is called subsidence. Subsidence lowers the elevation of the land, making it appear as if the sea level is rising. I have heard all about the sea-level-rising tests, along with the resulting fears, but I have never heard of testing for subsidence.

Subsidence is when minerals, for example — water, oil or gas — are extracted from the land, causing the settling of the land, i.e. lowering the elevation. This extraction may create empty underground caverns due to a void or the gradual settling of the land due to the land shrinking as it dries out. We hear about sinkholes when a cavern suddenly collapses, but very rarely do we hear about gradual settling. One of the worst examples of subsidence settling is Baytown (outside of Houston), Texas, where one of its suburbs has had about 6 to 8 feet of subsidence (yes, that’s feet, not a misprint), largely due to the extraction of oil. As another example, the tidal basin in Washington, D.C., is experiencing about 3 feet of subsidence due to being built on a swamp that is compressing, allowing the water level to rise. Even if sea level doesn’t change, a drop of just a couple of inches in elevation due to subsidence would have an impact on our shoreline. If combined with sea-level rise, the total elevation change would be even greater.

With all the wells being drilled along our shore extracting water for more and bigger houses, subsidence could be a contributing issue to our sea-level problem. I want to know if tests have been conducted to investigate if subsidence exists. If it does not, I want to see an official document that states there is no subsidence. Subsidence may not be an issue, but it should be considered. It could be a small percentage of the overall problem, but at least we can control subsidence by a moratorium on drilling new wells and water usage. We have no control over the sea level rising. Pretending we can stop, slow down, or hide the impact of the sea rising by “resiliency” is equivalent to claiming we can build sand castles against the tide. It will just waste taxpayer money.

Steven J. Williams


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