Rising sea levels could impact future of St. Augustine, study says

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Rising sea levels could impact the future of the St. Augustine area, according to a new study from the University of Florida. 

At a city commission meeting Monday night at St. Augustine City Hall, the words "dire" and "emergency" were used to describe potential effects of rising sea levels on coastal areas. 

Bill Hamilton, a St. Johns County resident, hoped to start a conversation at the city commission meeting. 

It’s a conversation he says we can no longer afford not to have.

"If it happens in 30 years, it's going to be New Orleans after (Hurricane) Katrina, all over the world and that's unmanageable. And the only thing that's driving this is greenhouse gases. That's something that we, as a society, can control," said Hamilton. 

Hamilton lives on Anastasia Island and says his entire life is invested on the coast. 

"I'm a businessperson here. I'm a part-owner of a marina. And 9 meters of sea level rise would make this, a big part of Florida, all of St. Augustine, uninhabitable."

According to a new study from the University of Florida, Hamilton’s concerns are founded.

The university projects continued sea level rise in the years ahead. 

Over the next 15 to 85 years, sea levels could rise 6 feet, the study says.

It also says if the sea level rose by 3 feet, 42 percent of St. Augustine would potentially be affected, including building infrastructure. A 5-foot sea level rise in sea level would affect about 68 percent of the city, according to the report.

Researchers project that could happen sometime after the year 2085.

St. Augustine city commissioners reviewed the findings, looking at ways to prepare for what’s to come.

As for Hamilton, he says reducing greenhouse gas emission is the answer to slowing this process and the issue should no longer be politicized.

"The United States prides itself on being a leader worldwide. People look to us as the light on the hill and for us to continue to stall this is irresponsible," Hamilton said. 

But for Mike Boyer, retired St. Augustine Beach resident, the issue of climate change isn't much of a concern. When asked about the potential effects of rising sea levels, Boyer says he leans on his faith, turning to God.

"I believe that He's in charge of our lives and if he makes it rise, than that's up to him."

Even with more studies showing the possible impacts of climate change, Boyer says what will be, will be.

"If you look back and over in history, our temperatures have gone up and down."

The city will continue to review the findings of the UF study to figure out what plan to put in place moving forward.