Caption: Jill Bieri, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve, leads a discussion Monday night in Wachapreague.


By Ted Shockley


By the year 2025, rising seawaters could take 33 miles of Eastern Shore roads and seven Eastern Shore communities possibly be swamped — including Tangier Island.


The good news is, local groups including The Nature Conservancy, the local Planning District and a committee called the Eastern Shore Climate Adaption Working Group are taking measures to prepare and anticipate how rising sea levels will impact the Shore.


Eastern Shore residents on Monday in Wachapreague and Tuesday in Craddockville heard from the Conservancy and Planning Distict on the ways the community is preparing for coastal changes.


Officials also wanted to listen as residents detailed their own observations on the changing coasts.


“We have seen tremendous changes,” said George Reiger, who told of changing marshlands and the differences in tendencies of aquatic life, at the Wachapreague event.


Brooke Layton mentioned the changes on Cedar Island, saying of property he owns there, “We still pay real-estate taxes on it for a dollar a year and it’s probably 50 yards out in the ocean.”


Other speakers were wary of what rising water levels will do, but were grateful that the Eastern Shore had avoided a direct-hit hurricane that would exacerbate the issue.


Jill Bieri, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve, said the Conservancy’s data has been used to create models on impact of rising seawaters. The Conservancy also has aggressively planted seagrass and completed oyster restoration projects that fortify the Shore’s fragile seaside.


Curt Smith, director of planning for the Planning District, talked about how the Shore already has qualified for grant funds for forecast studies on sea-level rise.


He said ensuring state transportation officials keep Eastern Shore roads accessible is a priority.

“Roads impact everything,” he said. “We’re literally thinking about this at every turn.”


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