Tybee Island City Council adopts sea level rise plan - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Tybee Island City Council adopts sea level rise plan

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

Tybee Island is one of the first communities in Georgia to begin planning for long-term sea level rise.

Thursday, city council heard the final presentation on a project that's been in the works for years.

Tybee has seen 10 inches of sea-level rise in the last 80 years, and the idea behind this plan is to think long-term and be proactive.

"So often we just react, and this gives us a planning document to move forward,” said Tybee Island City Manager Diane Schleicher.

The report was drafted by researchers at the University of Georgia and Stetson University and is the culmination of nearly four years of study.

"We've already been seeing some impacts on Tybee Island, and so really there was this idea of trying to think into the future, think through different scenarios and actions that could be taken for Tybee,” said Dr. Jason Evans, lead researcher.

The plan lays out several goals to deal with rising sea levels in the future, including constructing tide gates - which the city has already started - raising well pumps to protect drinking water and elevating Highway 80.

"I would even say this is really a national, of U.S. Highways, this is probably one of the worst in the country,” said Dr. Evans.

Highway 80 saw 23 tidal flooding events last year alone. Dr. Evans told WTOC based on his research, the flooding is only going to get worse in the future.

"In order to maintain overall public safety, maintain the functionality of this road over a 50 year time frame... some degree of elevation would seem to be required to me,” said Dr. Evans.

Of course, that decision will ultimately be up to the Georgia Department of Transportation and at this point, they have not decided whether elevating the road will be part of their plan.

But Tybee is one of the first places in the country to even consider a plan like this, meaning this project is being used as a model for other communities from St. Mary's, Georgia to the Florida Keys.

"I think Tybee should be very proud of the fact that they're addressing this and being very proactive. I think that makes it -- to me, if I were to move into a coastal community, it makes it more attractive,” said Dr. Evans.

The Sea Level Rise Plan has also meant savings for residents on the island. The report helped improve the city's FEMA rating, which saved property owners $3 million on flood insurance.

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