ACCELERATE RESTORATION OF BAYLANDS
We need to accelerate restoration in strategic areas
Sea level is rising now and will be rising faster in coming decades, as the great ice sheets on the planet slowly melt due to the global warming that has already occurred. It is therefore essential that we start planning for the impacts of sea level rise now, before this acceleration occurs.
Once established, a tidal marsh can rise with sea level by accumulating sediment and plant matter as time passes. Scientists have found that an established marsh has “elevation capital” that it can use to adjust its height as sea level changes, and thus survive higher sea levels.
Restored marshes become established over time.
We must take steps to ensure that our marshes have this elevation capital. In many parts of our region our diked baylands have subsided, requiring that we bring these areas up to current sea level before restoring them to the tides, so that marshes can establish quickly. This will likely be accomplished by using material dredged from the Bay or excavated on land. At the same time, natural processes of sediment delivery will be critical so that established marshes can grow in elevation at pace with sea level.
Since sea-level rise is still proceeding relatively slowly at present, we have an important window of opportunity for establishing robust restored marshes that have elevation capital. If we can do this by 2030, we will have a much better chance of maintaining the benefits of the baylands into the middle of the century. To succeed, however, we must change our approach for approving baylands restoration and enhancement projects. Our current regulatory process does not allow for the type or rate of action that appears necessary.