Mayor Purzycki Releases Wilmington’s Resiliency Plan and Website to Manage Climate Change and Build a Resilient Future for the City
June 23, 2022
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki says changing weather conditions – including rain, tidal flooding, and extreme heat – are affecting Wilmington residents today and are expected to continue or likely worsen as the climate changes in the years ahead. So, the Mayor today joined with City Public Works Commissioner Kelly Williams and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) [dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov] to release Resilient Wilmington—a 47-page study with valuable information about our present and future climate conditions and challenges, and how to plan and build a resilient future for Wilmington and its residents.
The Resilient Wilmington study and new website available here build on a great deal of work already underway by the City and its regional partners to mitigate and prepare for climate change. But the study states that additional planning and resources are imperative to ensure that Wilmington has a resilient, prosperous, and equitable future, embodied in four stated visions, which are:
•To incentivize and encourage smart and resilient economic growth for the City of Wilmington.
•To ensure sewer and stormwater infrastructure can provide the same level of service in the future as it does today through both traditional and innovative green solutions.
•To develop a transportation system with a smaller footprint on the environment while also protecting infrastructure from the risks posed by climate change.
•To work with City partners to connect residents to resources that will help them stay safe from the risk posed by climate change.
The Resiliency Study notes that Wilmington—as the largest city in Delaware and home to over 70,000 residents as well as the I-95, I-495, and Amtrak transportation corridors—is an important city in a variety of ways for Delaware and the region. However, a significant portion of Wilmington is within the 100-year floodplain. These areas include the Port of Wilmington, the Southbridge neighborhood, 7th Street Peninsula, and portions of Riverside and Price’s Run. The study shows the floodplain is expanding as sea levels rise and it concludes that all of the City will eventually feel the effects of rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns related to climate change.
The study says that because Wilmington is located at the confluence of the Brandywine and Christina Rivers, its proximity to water has long been an economic driver for the City, both historically as an industrial waterfront and recently as a mixed-use cultural and entertainment district. City and State officials agree that climate change is creating a new set of challenges. Sea level rise, worsening floods, rising temperatures, and changing precipitation threaten to inundate low-lying neighborhoods and overwhelm drainage infrastructure.
Mayor Purzycki said Wilmington’s vulnerability to climate change is apparent by the increase in local flooding events in recent years caused by heavier rainfall and higher tides. The Mayor said he is committed to the City’s building resilience in its future policies, planning, and budgeting. He said acting now will allow the City to leverage resilience measures that not only address current and future vulnerabilities, but also drive economic growth.
To help build resilience, there are a number of steps Wilmington residents can take today, which include:
•Visiting the website here to learn more about the Resilient Wilmington plan.
•Walking, biking, or using public transportation to reduce air pollution.
•Purchasing and maintaining flood insurance, even if your property is outside of the floodplain because anywhere it can rain, it can flood. Nationwide, more than 40% of recent flood insurance claims have come from properties outside of the designated floodplain.
•Adding rain gardens or other planters on your property to help capture rainfall.
•Creating an emergency plan for you and your family to be better prepared for floods and other disasters.
•Attending community meetings and having your voice heard.
Other facts from the Resilient Wilmington study include definitions and explanations to assist with the public’s comprehension of the enormous challenges confronting Wilmington:
Climate change is the long-term transformation in normal weather patterns currently occurring throughout the world as a result of global warming. In the last century alone, the Earth has warmed by an average of 2 degrees Fahrenheit (F). As the planet continues to warm, more extreme and unpredictable weather is likely to occur.
Global warming is largely attributed to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere produced by using fossil fuels. Fossil fuels – like oil, coal, and natural gas – release greenhouse gases (GHGs) when they are burned, which absorb infrared radiation and gradually warm the Earth’s atmosphere and surface. At the same time, deforestation is another contributor, as forests absorb massive quantities of carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air. The destruction of forests means that there are fewer trees to absorb GHGs and release oxygen. As global warming continues, Wilmington will experience significant changes in its climate over the coming years.
Temperatures are climbing as exemplified by the fact that Delaware is tied with Arizona as the fourth-fastest warming state in the United States based on temperature trends since 1970 and is expected to warm another 1.5 to 2.5 degrees by 2039. As the region continues to warm, so will the frequency of heat waves and “dangerously hot days,” defined as days with a heat index above 105 F. Wilmington has already experienced an increase of almost three more calendar days above 90 F since 1970, and dangerously hot days are anticipated to increase from 5-6 days in 2017 to 22-48 days in 2100.
Changing Precipitation. Over the last few decades, Delaware has experienced minimal change in observed precipitation totals. The impact climate change will have on precipitation varies. However, looking forward, annual average precipitation in Delaware is expected to increase 10 percent by the end of the century, and seasonal precipitation changes are predicted to see the largest increase in winter.
Rising Sea Levels. DNREC’s Coastal Program has projected 1.7 – 5.0 feet of SLR by the year 2100. In addition to Delaware’s low-lying topography, the state is experiencing land subsidence or sinking. The present-day rate of land subsidence is 1.5 mm per year to 3 mm per year, the highest on the Atlantic Coast. Together, low-lying topography and land subsidence make Delaware more vulnerable to SLR. Flooding exacerbated by SLR has the potential to inundate homes and businesses in Wilmington more frequently over time, particularly in low-lying neighborhoods.
This Resilient Wilmington study was compiled through funding from the Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Climate, Coastal & Energy’s Sustainable Communities Planning Grant and the support of the Wilmington Department of Public Works. The grant funding was made possible through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon dioxide (CO2) cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from the power sector. The City is appreciative of additional support from WILMAPCO, Wilmington Initiatives, Wilmington Planning Department, Wilmington Office of Emergency Management, the Riverfront Development Corporation, Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Delaware Academy of Medicine, Delaware Public Health Association, The Nature Conservancy, Delaware Geological Survey, University of Delaware, Tetra Tech, and Delaware Emergency Management Agency.