ST. MARYS — Fifty years from now, sea levels in St. Marys are forecast to be at least 8 inches higher.
Stormwater is the big concern, but the impacts can be negligible thanks to some wise decisions already made and with some planning to prepare for the future.
St. Marys was one of five locations in the nation selected in 2013 through a nationwide grant competition funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s national sea grant program. The final report from the study was adopted unanimously Monday by the St. Marys City Council.
The study concluded city officials made wise decisions in the past by building fire departments and other public safety structures at some of the highest elevations in St. Marys.
The city is also looking at back flow preventers and other new technologies to improve drainage and reduce flooding in the city.
Jeff Adams, the city’s community development director, said St. Marys should be in a position to withstand sea level rises, even if they rise higher than expected.
“We are in a pretty good situation,” he said.
The city currently has 6,436 structures, most of which are outside flood zones. Of those, 292 are in the 100-year flood height and 1,200 could be damaged by a 500-year flood.
Despite the number of vulnerable structures, the city’s flood insurance has been reduced by 15 percent because of recommendations followed in the study. It’s possible the city could reduce rates another 10 percent with more work.
Mayor John Morrissey described the study as “very important.”
“This is a fine example of strategic planning,” he said.
Jason Evans, assistant professor at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., said the study focused mainly on the next 50 years.
“The good news is public safety buildings are in good locations,” he said. “There’s not a lot of infrastructure at risk.”