A new report by a scientific advocacy group warns a rising ocean could have severe impacts at the U.S. Marines basic training base near Beaufort.
The Union of Concerned Scientists report released last month cautions the Parris Island training base is particularly vulnerable to flooding in the next 55 years if sea levels continue to rise at their expected pace. The island that serves as the basic training post for all male Marine recruits east of the Mississippi River and all female recruits nationwide is flat, marshy and no more than 20 feet above sea level at its highest point.
The organization has been pushing Republicans in Congress to allow the Pentagon to study the potential impact of “climate change” on American military operations. Congressional Republicans, many of whom believe worries about climate change are exaggerated or unnecessary, argue Defense Department resources should be focused on national security. A vote that blocked the Pentagon from acting on the plan passed the House 216-205 in June.
The report examined 18 military bases along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to calculate the potential impact from hurricanes, strong tides, and typical erosion through 2050, 2070 and 2100. “The results were dire for Parris Island,” lead analyst Kristy Dahl told South Carolina Radio Network. “It stands to lose somewhere between 45 and 85 percent of its land by the end of the century, depending on how last the sea level rises.”
Large wetland portions of Parris Island are already exposed to flooding during extra-high tides an average of roughly 10 times per year. According to the report, that could increase exponentially to more than 150 times per year under moderate rise and weather, or even as much as 300 times per year by 2050 under a worst-case scenario.
The report also warns extreme tides could “inundate” up to 85 percent of the island in another 75 years roughly 10 times per year under the worst scenario, but even the moderate projections say about 40 percent of the base would be affected by flooding from daily high tides by the end of the century.
Officials at Parris Island say they are reviewing the potential impacts of climate change to see if any future planning or response is needed. “Climate change effects are being integrated into planning, assessment, response and related decision-making support activities across Parris Island,” the Corps said in a statement response. A spokesman told the Hilton Head Island Packet the island only sees flooding now after extreme high tides or heavy rain, but Staff Sgt. Greg Thomas said some HVAC units have been moved off the ground to avoid flood damage.
The report also analyzed nearby Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, an air base located further inland along the marshes of the Harbor River. Dahl said researchers found smaller impacts at MCAS Beaufort, but still determined the site could lose a fifth of its land by the end of the century at worst. However, a spokesman at the station told the Island Packet that Air Force personnel last year had examined potential impact of tides above 12 feet. The spokesman said the review found only “minor infrastructure” was affected.