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Showing posts from October, 2016

Caveat Empty: The National Flood Insurance Well is Dry

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One reason not much gets done about climate change and sea level rise is that government has coddled communities affected by climate-driven storm surges. Understanding that there are numerous cases which have been left to wallow and others compensated meagerly, it appears that some are nonetheless satisfied, shifting the burden onto their fellow taxpayers for their risky decision to perch themselves on the edge of a sea containing melting ice cubes.
A coddling case in point is the nearby Cove Point neighborhood, Calvert County's most flood-prone community, which is receiving federal grants to allow homeowners to elevate their homes. The same community is also up in arms over the (ill conceived) efforts to make the Cove Point LNG plant export-capable. Their NIMBY campaign stems from concerns for their safety, but the Cove Point plant has been there for some forty years, handling LNG imports, why weren't they protesting then? They bought their homes with full awareness of the pl…

Canoe U - Who Knew?

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Consciousness of global warming will rise with the seas. Other parts of the world, particularly the Far East, will gain consciousness earlier than America, but the truth will become clear to those of us on the east coast faster than you might expect. Studies modeling climate change often select the turn of the next century as the datum for reporting outcomes, leading casual readers to think that the interim won't pose a major problem. In the case of sea level rise, it is important to understand that there is no escape - we are already locked in to being driven back by the sea in many littoral areas regardless of how much we mitigate carbon emissions. The more salient question is: how quickly will the seas continue to rise?

Recently, scientists have found that there is a strong possibility that previous estimates of the inextirpable rate of sea level rise are short by half if the West Antarctic ice shelf calves off into the drink. A study done this year looks at what that could mea…

Dock Days on the Horizon

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In the Maryland Department of Transportation road show visit to Calvert County, a few local industries were mentioned to point out the value of Maryland's maritime transportation infrastructure. Three businesses, to be exact, seem to be all that they could come up with for this slice of the Southern Maryland peninsula. They were Victor Stanley, Dominion (Cove Point), and Yesteryear Wicker. These businesses employ only about 300 of the approximately 50,000 strong Calvert County workforce.

Nevertheless, change is coming in the next twenty years that will make shipping over water more common. It just won't require Calvert to rely on the Port of Baltimore. Local waterborne cargo businesses will spring up at a multitude of the private docks along the bay and inlets in conjunction with the shift of short haul logistics onto cargo bikes.

Factors contributing to these changes will include financial and commercial collapse, the peak oil descent, America turning inward as the world clos…

Plan on Pedaling

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One of the ways Maryland is trying to improve transportation is to support bicycle riders and pedestrians, especially in the more populated towns and cities. There is a lot of progress to be made, since Maryland ranked 39th in the nation for bicycling when the O'Malley administration decided to do something about it. What they came up with is a 20-year plan with the vision that "Maryland will be a place where bicycling and walking are safe, practical, and inviting ways for people of all ages and abilities to complete their everyday travel."

Much of what they are doing deals with bikeway construction. You can use the interactive map to find roads that are good for cycling. There aren't that many in my area, but one way for me to use the map is to find bike roads in populated areas where I might need to spend a day and take my bike along for intracity travel, rather than worry about parking costs or bus fares.

Regardless of how many bikeways there are now or in the fut…

Collapse's Silver Lining

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Maryland's Energy Administration can claim the lion's share of the progress in greenhouse gas reduction for the state over the past seven years, though several facets of the EmPOWER Maryland Program are led by other agencies. Transportation, which emits roughly one-third of the state's greenhouse gases, has not been a major contributor to Maryland's success in pursuit of the 2020 mandated emissions reductions. Greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles has decreased, but not at a rate that would make the 25% reduction anticipated by the Maryland Commission on Climate Change. Page 40 of MDOT's annual attainment report has a bar graph that cuts through a lot of obfuscation.

Ironically, Maryland will probably meet not only the 2020 target for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, but also the additional 15% reduction mandated by the 2016 version of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act. You may think that electric vehicles will be a big part of the reason, but I am thinking more in t…

Traffic Snarls

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Annapolis politicians are squaring off over billions of dollars worth of potential gridlock remedies. A new coalition called Fix270NOW came out a few months ago advocating that Maryland pour huge sums into expanding I-270, the main route between Washington, D.C. and Frederick, Maryland. Another group, the Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition (MTOC), formed, it appears, in response to Fix270NOW's efforts, is in favor of building new transit lines instead of widening existing roads.

The contest for political backing will take place over several months, well into 2017 as the Maryland Department of Transportation takes their road show to all the counties to talk about the proposed Consolidated Transportation Plan for the upcoming 6 years. The CTP tour schedule shows it reaching Calvert County on October 18th. The CTP includes the BaltimoreLink bus system rather than the Red Line rail system that MTOC is advocating.

All of these ideas are far too ambitious for these times. Not only…

Off Broadway

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As a plebe (freshman) at Annapolis, I loved the several opportunities to escape the confines of our pressure cooker environment by taking group trips to watch Broadway plays at the Kennedy Center and the Arena Stage. The half-price tickets were just cheap enough to make it affordable for me, but now, decades later, and living, once again, close to Washington, D.C., I am not able to afford such venues. Back in the '70's, I realized that I was living the dream and that life after the Academy wouldn't afford the same privileges. Being priced out of today's Broadway shows is, therefore, no great surprise.
Any latent disappointment over the loss of those glory days was erased Saturday night when my wife and I took in our first play performed at the New Direction Community Theater. Lacking only the grandeur and amenities of metropolitan playhouses, but not the acting quality or set realism, this community theater brought me as much of an escape from my work-a-day existence a…

Growing Pains

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At one of our county's workshops for updating the comprehensive plan, a survey of the audience indicated that growth was perceived as the greatest challenge facing the county. Most, if not all, of those who gave this answer were implying that we should be making extra effort to ensure that the county grows economically. My own view is that economic growth is not in the cards, as our nation is already stagnating and the fuel for its growth (cheap oil) is past peak production. There are other ways in which growth is possible, but if the majority insist on government banging their heads against the glass wall of making America great again, efforts to collectively grow in more sublime ways will be foregone

I was prepared to read a speech detailing my vision for the county's future up to 2040, but it turned out that the workshop was not structured as an open forum. Nonetheless, I emailed a link to the transcript, which follows, to the planning department for consideration.

By so…

Storm Purges

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It's been four years since Superstorm Sandy poured down on the northeastern U.S.  Now, major hurricanes simultaneously threaten to cause disasters in both hemispheres. Despite Matthew's menacing track forecast, there is a good chance it will stay out at sea. Either way, it looks like much of the east coast is in for a deluge. One of the greatest impacts caused by Sandy and many other extreme rain events is one we seem to forget too quickly afterwards - overflowing of sewage treatment plants. The cumulative result,  in connection with Superstorm Sandy, was discharge of some 11 billion gallons of raw sewage to our environment. While 7 million gallons is enough to push me to take desperate measures, billions of gallons may drive me to despair.

Our wastewater treatment infrastructure, like so much else in our country, has not been maintained or renewed enough to keep pace with a growing population. Add to that the stress of climate change, and there is bound to be an increase in f…

How Quickly Things can Change

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In little time, Matthew went from a tropical storm to a category 5 hurricane. By late next week, peoples' lives on this coast may be dramatically interrupted. When these storms track west of the Chesapeake Bay, the storm surge has been reported as high as 15 feet in one long ago incident. The flood hazard estimates for the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant use a maximum probable surge of 27 feet (the plant survives, but so long Norfolk, Annapolis, and Baltimore).

Storm surge isn't the concern for my home, but a major hurricane hit would possibly take off the roof or knock down walls. We would not be in the house at that point, having evacuated to a shelter or to the hinterlands about a day ahead of the storm. More than likely, we would be dealing with something less than a category 3 hurricane this far up the bay, so my choice would be to ride it out (though, this time, with all of the saturated ground, toppled trees would be a bigger problem than usual).

Time to start going throug…