How rising sea levels could impact Dartmouth

Jul 18, 2023

From sharks on the cape and bears running through town, the impacts of climate change are never ending and increasingly threatening, according to Marc Garrett, Dartmouth’s Environmental Affairs Coordinator.

For the coastal town of Dartmouth, rising sea levels will have an impact on homeowners, residents and businesses.

“This is not looking at what is happening 1,500 miles away from us,” Garrett said. “This is our backyard, this is where we live.”

At a talk at the Dartmouth Cultural Center on July 13, Garrett drove home why Dartmouth residents should care about the changing environment and it came down to safety and survival.

“If you live in that [flooded] zone, and you’re in the middle of a climatic event … and you have a health event, it becomes a problem,” Garrett said. “That is a public health [and] public safety issue.”

Garrett showcased situations where roads could be cut off due to flooding leaving some areas of town completely isolated and cut off.

When everything is going well people imagine they can handle a climate emergency, Garrett explained, but once problems start to compile, surviving becomes much harder. He gave the example of ambulances being unable to travel on flooded roads.

Humans are largely to blame for recent environmental shifts that are causing record storms, droughts and fires, but this is not a new phenomenon, he explained.

“Just ask the dinosaurs what happened to them,” he said.

There are laws in place to help combat individual impacts on the environment. These laws might come in the form of zoning restrictions or trash regulations. “And unfortunately it’s inconvenient, but you have to deal with it,” Garrett said.

In the case of a large storm, like a hurricane, Dartmouth is very exposed, Garrett said. So, being prepared is especially important.

Garrett explained that on the state side, there are different grants that the town can apply for to help offset the costs to protect the coast line and ensure proper flood water management. The grants are part of the state’s Coastal Resilience program, which are awarded to coastal communities that “face significant risks from coastal storms, flooding, erosion, and sea level rise.” Dartmouth received a grant for its evaluation of the Dias Landing seawall.

“How many of you have ever stood on the beach and looked out at the ocean and said, ‘how small do I feel,’” Garret said. “The ocean can take you out, the ocean represents nature at a moment's notice.”