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VA law prevents utility shutoffs in extreme circumstances; MI construction industry responds to a high number of worker suicides; 500,000 still without power or water in the Houston area; KY experts: Children, and babies at higher risk for heat illness.

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The House passes the SAVE Act, but fails to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in inherent contempt of Congress, and a proposed federal budget could doom much-needed public services.

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Enticing remote workers to move is a new business strategy in rural America, Eastern Kentucky preservationists want to save the 20th century home of a trailblazing coal miner, and a rule change could help small meat and poultry growers and consumers.

Salt Marsh Initiative aims to protect SC lowcountry from storm surges

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Friday, June 7, 2024   

With hurricane season underway, South Carolina's 344,000 acres of salt marshes are the first line of defense for the state's lowcountry against storm surge - but only if they stay healthy.

As climate change drives Atlantic storms to higher frequency and intensity, environmental scientists have developed plans to protect the salt marshes. Brita Jessen, interdisciplinary research and partnerships lead for the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, said it's crucial to protect the state's coastal wetlands.

"Salt marshes help reduce the impact of flooding," she said. "Because they can absorb some of that excess water that's coming up into our infrastructure, they can hold in and kind of contain that water, and that's a really important impact to our communities, and way of life as well."

Jessen said the marshes not only protect the lowcountry from flooding and erosion but also provide a rich habitat for plants and animals. Scientists and government agencies have developed the South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative plan to protect the region's salt marsh ecosystem.

South Carolina has the largest network of salt marshes on the Atlantic coast, greatly increasing habitat for aquatic life. Jessen said the salt marshes act as both a natural and an economic buffer, providing almost $700,000 of value per mile by reducing the impacts of storm surge and flooding.

"The most important part is that it's providing an area of friction that is able to attenuate the amount of energy coming into a coastal area from the storm," she said. "There's a lot of wind and wave energy."

Developers of the Salt Marsh Initiative have said the plan has two main strategies: to protect and restore the existing salt marshes, and to conserve habitat and migration corridors.

Denise Sanger, a senior scientist at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, said officials need to develop better ways to guard against sea-level rise.

"So we've got to have a healthy marsh and sediment coming onto it for them to keep up with sea-level rise onto it," she said, "and I don't think we have as good of a handle on the expanses that we have and how well each one of them will respond."


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