May 30, 2024
Annapolis, US 58 F

OPINION: Batten Down the Hatches: Annapolis Must Prepare for More Severe Flooding

Flooding on Dock Street – October 2021

How is it that a thunderstorm brought water levels up to a point that rivaled some of the most severe hurricanes in recent history? The flooding in downtown Annapolis that occurred on October 28th, 2021 surged 4.9 feet above tide level, the fourth largest surge in recorded history. As sea levels continue to rise and larger storms become more frequent due to anthropogenic climate change, Annapolis needs a concrete action plan and better infrastructure to combat future flooding. 

The U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) superintendent has stated that the rising sea levels, storms, and flooding threaten the Academy’s mission. Certain studies go so far as to predict that they may have to relocate by 2100. At the moment, the Naval Academy has stated they have plans to work with the city of Annapolis on a long term resilience plan that will appropriately address future surges and flooding and should be complete by the end of 2021. 

Annapolis has already implemented adaptive measures to decrease the destruction caused by floods with the creation of underground pumps and wet wells. Proposed in 2018, the pumps were installed in 2019 as part of the city’s long-term infrastructure plan for flood adaptation. An article written in 2019 cites that the city was waiting on a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin further construction in October of 2020. However, there has been no public update since. Additionally, the flooding on October 28th emphasizes Annapolis’ current infrastructure cannot handle the extent of flooding that we see today, much less the increased levels that we are bound to see. Annapolis needs more than another quick fix or plan to sweep under the rug; the city needs to prove its commitment to flood mitigation by allocating more money towards long-term flood mitigation infrastructure.

To come up with a comprehensive plan, the city must first determine which areas are most at risk. Online tools like Flood Factor, created by a First Street Foundation, a New York City NGO, are working to create up-to-date flood maps that can work congruently with organizations like FEMA and individual cities, like Annapolis, to deliberately and effectively address flood mitigation and adaptation.

While the city needs to find a comprehensive approach to prepare for increased flooding, we also need to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions now to prevent these trends from spiraling out of control. The IPCC warns that net-carbon emissions need to be reduced close to zero by 2050 in order to avoid even more drastic climate change disasters, like higher tides and increased flooding. The city already stated these goals as a part of the 2008 Sustainable Annapolis initiative, calling for a 50% reduction of government CO2 levels by 2012 and carbon neutrality by 2050. However, in a 2012 evaluation of this plan, the city states that there had only been a 7% decrease in city emissions and a 17% increase in emissions by the community. Other than these reports, there has not been any updated sustainability report or action plan since around 2012. There should be more clarity to the general public on the city’s efforts towards sustainability. Along with flood mitigation, we need to strengthen the resolve with which we commit to our emission goals and keep better track of our progress towards those goals. 

Ultimately, the city has made initial strides in addressing flood mitigation and adaptation but should nonetheless strengthen its efforts. This course of action includes creating the necessary infrastructure to protect Annapolis from future storm surges and floods, updating the community action plan and accurately tracking carbon emissions, and increasing transparency with its plans so citizens can make informed decisions.

— Isabel Ramos and Nathan Roche

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