PARIS ISLAND, SC ( Associated Press) – Rising seas are encroaching on one of America’s most storied military installationsWhere thousands of recruits are cast into the Marines each year amid the salt marshes of the Lowcountry region of South Carolina.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot Paris Island is particularly vulnerable to flooding, coastal erosion and other effects of climate change, a Defense Department-funded “resilience review” noted last month., Some scientists estimate that by 2099, three-quarters of the island could be under water during high tide each day.
Military officials say they are confident they can keep the second oldest Marine Corps base intact through small-scale changes to existing infrastructure projects.
Paris Island’s environmental director, Major Mark Blair, describes this strategy as “the art of small”, a phrase he attributed to the base’s commanding general, Brigadier. General Julie Nethercott. In practice, this means raising the culvert, which is in need of repair anyway, limiting development in low-lying areas, and adding floodproof measures for firing range upgrades.
Others advocate much larger and more expensive solutions, such as building a giant sea wall around the base, or moving Marine Corps training away from the coast entirely.
Paris Island has a huge role in military lore and American pop culture as a proving ground for Marines who have served in every major conflict since World War I. It continues to be an important training ground along with Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. But the rising sea is proving to be a formidable enemy.
Salt marsh makes up more than half of the base’s 8,000 acres (3,200 ha), and the highest point of the depot, by the fire station, is just 13 feet (4 m) above sea level. It is connected to the mainland by a single road which is already susceptible to flooding.
The low-lying areas on the island and the nearby Marine Corps Air Station are already flooded about ten times a year, and by 2050, “currently flood-prone areas within both bases may experience tidal flooding more than 300 times a year.” And about 30 could be underwater. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the percentage of the year is the highest given the scenario.
Military reports have acknowledged threats to national security from climate change for decades, as wildfires, hurricanes and floods have prompted evacuations and damaged bases. a pentagon document Published last fall after President Joe Biden ordered federal agencies to revise their climate resilience plans, the Defense Department now has “a comprehensive approach to building climate-ready installations” and adaptations made by Paris Island. and cite the resilience study.
But disruptions are increasing day by day, from flooding streets to rising temperatures and high humidity, which when combined limit the human body’s ability to cool off through sweat.
Those wet, hot days can limit outdoor training. Already, more than 500 people on the island of Paris suffered from heat stroke and heat exhaustion between 2016 and 2020, according to the Armed Forces Health Monitoring Branch, which ranks among the top ten US military installations for heat illnesses.
The retired brigadier said all training that took place on the island of Paris could technically be replicated elsewhere on cooler, drier land. General Stephen Cheney, who served as Commanding General at the base from 1999 to 2001.
But Cheney sees no appetite in Congress to shut down Aadhaar And shifting its mission to low-risk land means the government will have to start investing in structural solutions to protect its critical components, such as firing ranges near water, he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Cheney reasons it would be cheaper to spend millions to build a sea wall than to spend billions to rebuild the base after a devastating hurricane.
Paris Island has so far been spared a direct hit that has caused billions in damage to other military installations, but it has been evacuated twice in the past five years for hurricanes, which affect South Carolina on average every eight years. Is.
In 2018, Hurricane Florence overtook Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, washing the beach used by Marines for training, destroying buildings and displacing personnel. A month later, Hurricane Michael ravaged Tyndall Air Force Base. In Florida, there were devastating airplane hangars and $3 billion in damage.
Cheney argues that those disasters should serve as cautionary tales for the island of Paris. But there are currently no plans for a grand overhaul – no concrete bulkheads or other sea walls that could dramatically modify the visual character of the post, no master plan to enhance the buildings all at once.
Colonel William Truex, the depot’s director of installation and logistics, said hurricane planning focused on preserving the equipment and buildings needed to protect lives and limit training disruptions.
“We’re not taking on any major projects because we don’t see any major threats to what we have to do here,” Truex said. “To be honest, these old brick buildings aren’t going anywhere.”
The island of Paris also depends on the resilience of communities away from the base. Stephanie Rossi, a planner with the Lowcountry Council of Governments, said the group’s Defense Department-funded climate change impacts study shows that the only roads on and off the island are road shoveling, elevating buildings and an area’s storm surge. Strengthening the water system where military families live.
The base also works with environmental groups to support living shoreline projects, building coastal oyster reefs to strengthen the natural buffer for floods and hurricanes.
“The water will be reduced,” said environmental director Blair. “The more resilient we make this place, the sooner we can get back to building Marines.”