A few years ago we printed a bunch of bumper stickers and signs that said “No Retreat! Save the bayshore communities”. I say we because as far as I know the project was paid for with public funds. The campaign was a great success. Several years later I still see the No Retreat bumper stickers and signs everywhere. The slogan has become a rallying call for some portion of the community.
For some the No Retreat slogan effectively summarizes the political and financial effort to retain all of our taxable real estate assets. Shoreline properties tend to be taxes at the highest rates within a community. Losing them can be financially disastrous to a community. For others, the slogan simply reflects an affinity for the bayshore community or a natural desire to keep family home.
The problem is that the scientists and accountants among us know that “No Retreat” is not a sustainable strategy. Virtually all of us who have been involved in sea level rise response planning recognize that we will lose some of our shoreline properties and communities. A reporter reported on the irony that under the force of a strong new moon tide, he saw the “No Retreat” signs floating down the flooded roadway. Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and other states are heavily involved in stakeholder discussions about how to handle this natural force. New Jersey lags far behind in this process. Some politicians still question the state’s official sea level rise projection that calls for some of our communities to be completely inundated within our lifetime.
The fact is that the overwhelming majority of planners believe that strategic retreat is the best available strategy as a response to sea level rise. We will undoubtedly save some of our present waterfront and technology will allow some businesses – like aquaculture – to survive and even thrive in this new high water environment. But the older homes along the bayshore will eventually be swallowed up by the forces of erosion; the combined effect of more water and higher levels of destructive energy in the water.
Next month the strategic retreat effort takes a significant step with a public meeting that will announce state buyout offers for the first wave of local bayshore residents who wish to move to higher ground. It is a sad but inevitable development for many of us.