The concrete piers at the Naval Station Norfolk are a lot more complex than the rickety wooden structures lining the waterfront down at the Rivah. Electric lines and steam pipes on the underbelly of the piers conduct power to the giant warships at dock. When water levels rise high enough, propelled by tides, storm surges and ocean winds, water can immerse the pipes. Base officials cut off electricity in anticipation of such events, which can disrupt training and maintenance on the ships.
Ten of the station’s 14 piers were built in the early 1900s. Sensors show that the water level has risen 18 inches over the past century. Navy officials say another 18-inch rise could incapacitate the naval base, reports E&E Publishing, which covers energy and environmental issues.
Norfolk is experiencing the fastest rate of sea level rise on the East Coast. Aside from warmer global temperatures, which melts glacier ice and expands water volume, the shift of tectonic plates and the pumping of water from aquifers underneath the city are causing subsidence. Fresh water withdrawal accounts for about half the subsidence.
For now, the Navy is adapting. It has replaced four old piers with double-decker piers and elevated utilities and has plans to build another eight more at a cost of $100 million each. States the article: “The base recently constructed a new building that sits 3 feet higher above the ground than normally encouraged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It’s including new standards and guidelines in its engineering plans for future projects.”
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