Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Warming Wednesdays: rising seas, one small hospital and planning conundrums

I've written before about concerns that the new Martha's Vineyard Hospital might prove vulnerable as warming leads to more violent storms. At the Living Local Harvest Festival last week I had chance to speak with a coastal planner from the Martha's Vineyard Commission, a regional planning body.
She readily pointed out that, not only does the main road from the town of Vineyard Haven to the hospital cross a low-lying harbor causeway, but also the rear approach comes through a wetland.

I suggested that a likely future scenario was a damaging storm during which most of the island was cut off from hospital access, followed by a wrenching local political decision to undertake the expense and controversy of building a sustainable road to the facility.

She agreed this might happen, but expanded on the political problems. The moment at which Vineyarders realize that they must do something to ensure they can reach their quite excellent small hospital in an emergency will very likely be the same time when Boston and its coastal communities discover they need to strengthen their defenses against rising seas. There are a lot more people in those urban areas than on the island; the more populated areas will certainly have first claim on whatever funds can be found for sustainability projects. The Island has some people with serious money, but not enough residents to have much state-level political clout.

This reality means that present planning amounts to trying to create circumstances that will make mitigation measures cheaper when a series of crunches come. Specifically, in the case of the hospital, it means discouraging development in the adjacent flats that will become wetlands as seas rise. It was politically impossible to persuade the hospital to relocate from its vulnerable location when it modernized, but at least its some of the approaches can be kept as open to future improvements as possible.

Here's a picture of the hospital area I snapped yesterday when taking the small plane to Boston. The harbor causeway comes in from the right; the hospital is the slightly reddish building in the center.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails