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Sea Level Rise Impacts in the Delaware Estuary of Pennsylvania

Product No.: 04037
Date Published: 6/2004

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Geographic Area Covered: The Pennsylvania Coastal Zone as defined by the shoreline of the Delaware River and the 20-foot contour in Bucks, Delaware and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania.

Abstract: This publication investigates the potential impacts of sea level rise on wetlands, salinity, water quality, public access, and hazardous waste sites in Pennsylvania's coastal zone. The study area for this analysis includes all land below the USGS 20-foot (1929) NGVD contour. The study concludes that a three- to four-foot rise in sea level during the next 100 years will have a wide range of impacts. Rising seas will inundate almost all of Pennsylvania's 1,500 acres of tidal wetlands. The salt line in the Delaware River will migrate further upstream, threatening Philadelphia's drinking water supply. The pollutants found in contaminated sites may be released into estuary waters. Efforts to increase public access to the waterfront may be jeopardized by rising waters. However, more open spaces on the waterfront would provide opportunities for wetland migration and could eliminate the need for expensive and environmentally destructive shoreline armoring schemes.

Key Words: Sea level rise, coastal zone, Delaware Estuary, Pennsylvania, Mid-Atlantic, wetlands, coastal wetlands, wetland migration, salinity, water quality, public access, shoreline armoring, hazardous waste sites, climate.

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