Environment

On Ga. Coast, An Unusual — And Large — Event Is Planned On Sea Level Rise

The Coastal Georgia Foundation is convening the event, which brings together academics, agencies, and the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Coastal Georgia Foundation is convening the event, which brings together academics, agencies, and the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Credit Stephen B. Morton / Associated Press file

On Tuesday, a few hundred people are expected to gather in Glynn County on the Georgia coast for an event on sea level rise. It’s not organized by environmental groups, or geared toward scientists.

This is an event for the general public that involves business groups, and that makes it unusual.

There have been conversations and meetings about sea level in Georgia, among agencies and environmental groups, for instance. And some cities, like St. Marys and Tybee Island are taking a lead. But in Glynn County, home to Brunswick, St. Simons, Sea Island and Jekyll, a conversation about the future has been long overdue, said Coastal Georgia Foundation president and CEO Paul White.

“There are communities all over the world that are preparing for this and it’s time for us to get off the off the mark and start doing something here,” he said.

The Coastal Georgia Foundation is convening the event, which brings together academics, agencies, and the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“There’s been plenty of data showing that tides are rising,” White said. “But this community has done nothing to start that discussion and prepare for those changes. And we figured let’s see if we can get that started.”

In Georgia, sea levels have gone up about nine inches in the past 80 years, and scientists say they could rise by another 3 feet or more in the next 80 years.

Read More: Tybee Island, Still Recovering From Hurricanes, Faces Sea Level Rise 

The rise is noticeable, said Mason Waters, regional president for United Community Bank, and a presenter at the Tuesday event. He said he grew up on the Sapelo River, and his parents are still in the same home. He said he remembers when he was a kid every once in a while a high tide would flood a nearby marsh.

“It was the most exciting thing when you’d see it out there, it was like we lived in a different place,” he said. It was rare. But now? “That happens several times a year now.”

Sea level rise will have an effect not only on the view from Waters’s childhood home, but also on his business.

“We supply capital to people to buy homes or to businesses to start businesses or buy commercial properties in the area. And as property becomes viable or not it affects what we can do,” he said.

Ashby Nix Worley, who works on sea level rise in Georgia for the Nature Conservancy and is planning to attend the event but wasn’t involved in organizing it, said she hasn’t seen an event quite like this one.

“There’s no better time than now to be talking about sea level rise,” she said.

Organizers say the 350 seats for the event sold out, but they hope to hold more conversations on sea level rise in the future.