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Integrated Environmental Science

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The Outer Banks is a shifting barrier island chain in North Carolina, susceptible to many coastal hazards such as Nor’easters, hurricanes, tropical storms, and storm surges. It is also impacted by sea level rise at a faster rate than the rest of North Carolina. Dare County, Outer Banks is experiencing a rate of sea level rise of 4.55 millimeters per year. Sea level rise can have harsh effects on coastal storm water management through flooding from storm surges and infrastructure damage. Recently, North Carolina legislation passed a ban on 30-year sea level rise predictions because they show alarming numbers that can have negative impacts on the island's economy and real estate. Along with limits on long term predictions, the Dare County storm water management plan avoids using terms such as “climate change” or “global warming.”

While North Carolina is imminently threatened by climate change and sea level rise, their actions to accommodate these changes are little to none, particularly compared to what other states have already implemented and installed (e.g. Massachusetts). With this in mind, environmental decision making is a key problem in the Outer Banks. A large majority of the stakeholders in the Outer Banks are homeowners, or owners of cottages that are rented, and business owners that rely on tourism for income. Stakeholder involvement, however, is not always wanted or needed by legislators. In this case, somewhat surprisingly, it seems that the majority of stakeholders are in agreement with the state legislators. Some could consider this crisis a “super wicked problem,” because it involves climate change and depends heavily on public policy to do something about it. Sea level rise can increase problems at many levels, which is a major policy concern. In this study, we analyze North Carolina's master plan for coastal and storm water management to determine if their planned actions are suitable for the Outer Banks.

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ENSC 402: Stormwater Management in the Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is a shifting barrier island chain in North Carolina, susceptible to many coastal hazards such as Nor’easters, hurricanes, tropical storms, and storm surges. It is also impacted by sea level rise at a faster rate than the rest of North Carolina. Dare County, Outer Banks is experiencing a rate of sea level rise of 4.55 millimeters per year. Sea level rise can have harsh effects on coastal storm water management through flooding from storm surges and infrastructure damage. Recently, North Carolina legislation passed a ban on 30-year sea level rise predictions because they show alarming numbers that can have negative impacts on the island's economy and real estate. Along with limits on long term predictions, the Dare County storm water management plan avoids using terms such as “climate change” or “global warming.”

While North Carolina is imminently threatened by climate change and sea level rise, their actions to accommodate these changes are little to none, particularly compared to what other states have already implemented and installed (e.g. Massachusetts). With this in mind, environmental decision making is a key problem in the Outer Banks. A large majority of the stakeholders in the Outer Banks are homeowners, or owners of cottages that are rented, and business owners that rely on tourism for income. Stakeholder involvement, however, is not always wanted or needed by legislators. In this case, somewhat surprisingly, it seems that the majority of stakeholders are in agreement with the state legislators. Some could consider this crisis a “super wicked problem,” because it involves climate change and depends heavily on public policy to do something about it. Sea level rise can increase problems at many levels, which is a major policy concern. In this study, we analyze North Carolina's master plan for coastal and storm water management to determine if their planned actions are suitable for the Outer Banks.