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Pinellas County
SPC forum addresses beach erosion
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Photo by NANCY AYERS
Beach erosion on Belleair Beach June 25 from the increased wave action and high surf as Tropical Storm Debby passed offshore is causing officials to take a second look at the area's vulnerabilities.
SEMINOLE – Was super storm Sandy an omen for Florida? Is beachfront inundation the new norm? Should our low-lying coastlines be hardened to protect vulnerable buildings near water’s edge? Or should we begin a strategic retreat from the beach, as some scientists suggest?

These are some of the issues that will be explored in the next Village Square forum co-sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College and the University of South Florida College of Marine Science.

The forum is titled “Climate Change and Sea Level Rise: Time for a Strategic Retreat from the Beach?”

It is set Wednesday, March 20, 6 to 8 p.m., at SPC’s Seminole campus, 9200 113th St. N. Presenting media sponsors are the Tampa Bay Times, WUSF Public Media, and WEDU TV.

A panel of scientists will address the issue. They include:

• Orrin Pilkey, professor emeritus of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University. Pilkey is internationally recognized for his research on barrier islands and beaches.

• Don P. Chambers, associate professor of physical oceanography at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science.

• Albert Hine, professor of geological oceanography at the USF College of Marine Science.

• Marc Hafen, senior instructor, Department of Geography, Environment and Planning, USF.

The coastal devastation wrought by Sandy Oct. 29-30, brought into focus the vulnerability of coastal communities. With huge swaths of coastal New Jersey, New York and Connecticut leveled by a 13-foot storm surge, many began to talk openly about climate change and sea level rise. Even conservative elected officials speculated about strategies to protect vulnerable coastal areas from storm-driven seawater. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke heatedly about the need to address climate change and last month proposed a $400 million buyback of seafront properties in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Though the recent focus has been on the Northeastern coast of the United States, Floridians can readily identify with the misery of their fellow citizens “up north.”

Florida has experienced more than its share of destruction from natural disasters, especially the scoured-shore consequences of hurricane-driven storm-surges.

The Tampa Bay region, while spared direct hits in recent hurricane blitzes, is just as vulnerable to massive flooding as more hurricane-prone South Florida and the Panhandle of North Florida. Surrounded by water on three sides, the low-lying peninsula that is Pinellas County is perhaps the most vulnerable urban area in Florida.

Projections of sea level rise due to climate change range from 3 feet to 6 feet by the end of this century. Under the 6-foot scenario, roughly 64 percent of South Florida’s developed area – home to 5 million people – would be underwater.

Advance registration for the dinner and program is required. Tickets are $30 for Village Square members, $40 for guests.

To register for the forum, go to website at spcollege.edu/solutions.

For further information, call 394-6251.
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Phone: (727) 397-5563
Fax: (727) 397-5900
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