Over the last 150 years, the bay has chewed away at the land like a cancer. About 3,200 acres have vanished, representing nearly one-third of the land, scientists estimate. Today, only about 900 of the islands’ remaining 8,000 acres are hospitable to development. The rest is saltwater marsh that is steadily eroding, sometimes before residents’ very eyes.
How long they can hang on is anyone’s guess.Meet, then, the candidates to become the first climate refugees of the contiguous United States.
The media/goverment/climate alarmism axis is bound and determined to find "climate refugees" to be able to point to. The Smith Islanders are resisting the label, and pointing (as I have repeatedly), that the problems with Smith and other islands on the eastern shore is not rising sea level, but erosion from the edges:
Larry Laird, 67, navigates his teal-painted boat along Smith Island’s shore, carrying a fresh load of visitors and residents. With each passing year, the name given to this particular slice of the bay — “The Big Thorofare” — becomes more appropriate.I know another group of people living on islands in a similar environment, with the islands eroding and potentially falling behind on sea level rise. You may have heard of it. Venice, Italy. If it's important to people to stay there, they'll alter the environment and/or adapt to the situation.
“This is a lot wider than when I was a boy,” Laird says.
But he is quick to point out that he doesn’t buy outsiders’ argument that climate change is to blame. Like many of his neighbors on the island, he disputes scientists’ warnings that its days are numbered.
The vast majority of Smith Islanders don’t accept being labeled climate refugees any more than they accept their island’s watery doom. But that’s essentially what state officials did when they offered property owners buyouts instead of reconstruction money this past spring in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
The Maryland Department of Housing and Community set aside $2 million in federal grants to buy Smith Island homes from voluntary sellers. Under the plan, any buildings involved in the transactions would be torn down and development would be prohibited forever.
Residents’ reaction was immediate and nearly unanimous. Of 38 written comments the agency received about the plan, 34 were opposed to it.
“I don’t know what other conclusion you could come to other than that the state was trying to move us off,” said the Rev. Rick Edmund, who lives on the island and conducts Sunday services at its three Methodist churches. “We don’t feel like we’re in as much danger as a lot of places on the mainland.”
State officials yanked the idea within two months of floating it. Islanders are now eligible for rebuilding funds.