WAREHAM - There are places in every coastal town where flooding is expected, where flooding is less likely and where it is rare.
For Wareham, those places are going to change as the sea levels rise, said Woods Hole Group coastal scientist Elise LeDuc, who spoke to a crowd of Wareham residents in Town Hall Thursday night on the community’s vulnerability to climate change.
“There are spots that are not necessarily right on the water, like Main Street near the fire station, that are more likely to see flooding in the coming 50 years,” said LeDuc.
Besides the fire station on Main Street, places like the Harbormaster’s Station on the Onset Pier, Tremont Nail Factory and much of the sewer infrastructure in town could be seeing flooding in the coming 50 years as well, said the coastal scientist, noting that 2030 changes are not as drastic as the ones projected for 2070, but that areas that can expect water from a big storm will change from where they are today and there are parts of the sewer system "that will be vulnerable."
“It’s not a flashy topic, but we would all be very unhappy if the sewer system is flooded,” said LeDuc, as members of the standing-room-only crowd nodded and audibly agreed with her.
The climate scientist was presenting results from Woods Hole Group’s study on Wareham’s vulnerability to climate change - aptly named “Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness,” a study largely funded by Gov. Charlie Baker’s MVP grant program, which is designed to help Massachusetts’ coastal communities prepare for the impacts that rising tides are having - and will have going forward - on infrastructure, neighborhoods and roadways.
One of the things that will really change as sea levels rise is salt marshes, said LeDuc. “The salt marsh will not be able to keep pace with sea level rise,” said the climate scientist. “Tidal flats will replace coastal wetlands.”
In the audience was a woman with a unique perspective on the effects of coastal flooding.
“I am pretty sure I am the only person here who remembers the hurricane of 1938,” said Marie Strawn of Onset, who was 3 when the hurricane struck and her family’s home on Highland Avenue was filled with water - the cellar and well into the first floor.
“No one wants to go through that,” said Strawn. “Best to prepare for these problems.”