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Pinellas County officials looking for solutions to rising sea level

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Some of Pinellas’ show-runners have decided sea level rise is a subject worth exploring.

County Commissioner Ken Welch, director of Pinellas County Economic Development Mike Meidel, Pinellas County Natural Resources division manager Kelli Hammer Levy, and Libby Carnahan, a UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant Extension agent, will all be attending a sea level rise conference at St. Petersburg College in early October.

“The goal of the conference is to come up with strategies for either mitigating the effects of sea level rise or dealing with it in a way that makes economic and practical sense,” said David Klement, executive director of SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions.

According to the EPA, average losses caused by recent hurricane winds, land subsidence (sinking), and sea level rise are estimated to be $14 billion per year in America.

“Climate change produces sea level rises of alarming proportions,” said Klement. “It poses a big threat to low-lying Pinellas County.”

The EPA also estimates that sea level rise will erode shorelines, inundate wetlands, and impair the operations of coastal infrastructure in the not-too-distant future. The agency contends that low-lying coastal areas will be at a higher risk from frequent floods and storm surge, while low-lying inland areas could see increased flooding from rain, due to stormwater drainage systems being overwhelmed by the increased waters.