IHBC’s #IHBCNottingham2019, climate and ‘managed retreat’ in Wales, via CNN: ‘UK village considers the unfathomable: tearing itself down before nature does’.

websiteUS news agency CNN has explored how a UK local council says that, because of rising sea levels, the village of Fairbourne will be flooded as the village is in the midst of ‘a very slow emergency’ for which plans are being drawn up’.

CNN writes:

Lee Bamber is standing in his garden on a gray day in Fairbourne, northwest Wales. The sea is within earshot — in fact, it’s just on the other side of a wall separating the Irish Sea from his land. The local council says because of rising sea levels, one day garden and sea will meet and the village will be flooded. Today, however, Bamber’s feet are resolutely dry.

Is he worried?  ‘Absolutely not,’ says the 45-year-old, his property has weathered floods before.  ‘It’s not like tomorrow we’ll suddenly be in the land of Noah.’ But Old Testament theatrics isn’t climate change’s only guise. Sometimes it creeps up slowly, millimeters at a time, until the brine is lapping at your doorstep. The village, says one council manager, is in the midst of ‘a very slow emergency,’ treated with the utmost seriousness. Plans are being drawn up that could remove Fairbourne from the map before nature does — and what happens here could have far-reaching implications for the rest of the UK.

During the last Ice Age much of Wales was covered in glaciers. When the ice melted, it left behind the principality’s famous hills and valleys. In places where glaciers once nestled rivers ran, depositing sediment over thousands of years and creating new land in patches along the coast. On one such patch, south of the Mawddach river in northwest Wales, lies Fairbourne. It’s an aging community of around 1,000, and some of its residents have moved to the coast for sea air in their retirement. With surrounding views of Snowdonia’s mountains and its long beachfront to the west, it’s easy to see Fairbourne’s appeal. ‘It’s like a land that time’s forgot,’ says local campsite owner Stuart Eves.

But this rugged idyll faces an existential crisis. Fairbourne is built on a natural flood plain, contending with the sea, a river estuary, water flowing off neighboring hillsides and the prospect of rising groundwater. It’s barely above sea level, hunkered down behind a reinforced shingle embankment. Following flooding in 2014, defenses were upgraded at a cost of £6.8 million, but the council says they will only hold for so long. It concedes it is fighting a losing battle.

The primary concern is sea level rise. …

A recent study’s worst-case scenario model said global sea levels could rise two meters by 2100, placing 187 million people at risk globally…

The council’s plan is to stop defending Fairbourne in around 35 years — when the sea level is predicted to have risen 0.5 meters from 2014 levels — if not sooner. By 2054, Williams says a seawall between 4-6 meters high would be required, with defenses costing £115-120 million.  But a seawall for Fairbourne would come with no guarantees. ‘If that wall were to be overtopped or breached, the consequences would be dire,’ Williams adds. ‘The reality of sea level rise is going to be of such a magnitude that you cannot build your way out…’

As a result of a plan approved in 2014, the council is considering relocating residents and yielding the land to the sea by the middle of the century…

A masterplan which would outline some of the council’s future strategy has been completed and is waiting for internal approval before release. House prices have already been affected. Goodier says they are down 35-40% against comparable communities — a partial recovery after they fell to ‘almost zero in the course of a week’ in early 2014. However she cautions prices could tail off in future. Eves has lived in the village since 1976 and says he will stick it out. ‘We’re not burying our head in the sand, we’re not saying climate change isn’t happening,’  he explains. ‘Let’s monitor what’s going on year by year … and if it does start to show a danger period, then it’s time to do something drastic.’

What happens at Fairbourne could be seen as a blueprint for future UK coastal strategy — or a cautionary tale…

As Gwynedd Council notes, coastal defences must meet ‘economic justification.’…

Read more….

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