Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

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Should NH protect Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from sea level rise?

Aug 24, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

A 2016 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists predicted that in a worst case scenario, one quarter of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard will be underwater by the end of the century.  The study had similarly dire predictions about sea level rise for other military bases on the east coast.

While the federal government is responsible for making military bases ready for any change in sea level, bases also rely on the infrastructure of surrounding communities to function. Some bases are therefore working with state and local governments to elevate roads, build flood walls, and more.

“When it comes to sea level rise, the local communities and the Navy really work hand-in-hand. And if you think about it, it wouldn't be helpful even if the Navy decided to make the Naval Station for a fortress that was impervious to the sea because all of our people live in the community, our utilities come from the community…. so we're really hand-in-hand with the community.”

- Capt. Dean A. VanderLey, Commanding Officer, Mid-Atlantic Naval Facilities Engineering Command 

Does NH need to protect the shipyard?

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is not only important to national security, it is an economic engine for the Seacoast. According to the Seacoast Shipyard Association, the shipyard contributed over $730 million to the regional economy in 2015.  Some policymakers therefore argue that the state is protecting an important investment by upgrading nearby infrastructure to handle higher sea levels.

This year, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill that gives municipalities more power to use local tax dollars to prepare for projected sea level rise.  However, in recent years New Hampshire limited state funding for local water infrastructure projects, and could arguably contribute more money to water infrastructure upgrades in towns across New Hampshire.

Click here to see our issue page about Water Sustainability in New Hampshire. 

Or are there higher priorities for state money?

On the other hand, some argue that predictions about sea level rise are overblown. 

Others argue that if the shipyard needs local infrastructure improvements to survive, the federal government should be responsible for funding those improvements.

In general, opponents identify many higher priorities for state funding, from local roads and bridges to the mental health system.

Do you think NH government should invest in infrastructure to protect the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from rising sea levels? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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