Rising seas encroach on one of America’s most famous military sites, where thousands of recruits are forming in Marines every year among the salt marshes of the Lower Carolina region.
The Paris Marine Corps recruitment depot is particularly vulnerable to floods, coastal erosion and other effects of climate change, the Defense Ministry-funded “Sustainability Review” said last month. Some scientists believe that by 2099, three-quarters of the island could be under water during high tide every day.
Military authorities say they are confident they can keep the second oldest Marine base intact through small changes to existing infrastructure projects.
Major Mark Blair, director of the Paris Island environment, describes the strategy as “the art of the little one”, a phrase he attributes to the base commander, Brig. General Julie Nethercott. In practice, this means raising the pipeline, which still needs to be repaired, restricting construction in low-lying areas and adding flood protection measures to modernizing landfills.
Others are in favor of much larger and more expensive solutions, such as building huge dams around the base or transferring Marine training from the coast.
The island of Paris plays a big role in military representations and American pop culture as a training ground for Marines who have been involved in every major conflict since World War I. It remains a critical training ground, along with a Marine recruiting unit in San Diego. But the rising sea proves to be a formidable enemy.
The salt marshes make up more than half of the 8,000-acre base (3,200 hectares), and the highest point of the depot, near the fire station, is just 13 feet (4 meters) above sea level. It is connected to the mainland by one road, which is already prone to flooding.
Lowland areas on the island and the neighboring Marine Corps are already flooded about ten times a year, and by 2050, “currently flood-prone areas on both bases may experience tidal floods more than 300 times a year and are under water for nearly 30 percent of the year. taking into account the highest scenario, ”the Union of Indifferent Scientists reports.
Military reports for decades have recognized threats to national security from climate change as forest fires, hurricanes and floods have caused evacuations and damaged bases. A Pentagon document released last fall, after the president Joe Biden ordered federal agencies to revise their climate sustainability plans, says the Department of Defense now has a “comprehensive approach to building climate agencies,” and cites a study of adaptation and resilience conducted by the island of Paris.
But daily disruptions are growing: from unpleasant floods on the roads to rising temperatures and humidity, which in combination limit the human body’s ability to cool down with sweat.
These wetter and hotter days can limit outdoor workouts. Already more than 500 people on the island of Paris suffered from heat stroke and heat exhaustion between 2016 and 2020, which put the base in the top ten U.S. military facilities for thermal diseases, according to the Armed Forces Health Department.
All the training taking place on the island of Paris could be technically replicated on cooler and drier land elsewhere, the retired brigade said. General Stephen Cheney, who served as base commander from 1999 to 2001.
But Cheney did not anticipate in Congress an appetite to close the base and relocate its mission to less risky territory, which means the government must start investing in structural solutions to protect its important components, such as landfills, he said. in an interview with The Associated Press.
Spending millions on dam construction would be cheaper than spending billions on rebuilding the base after a devastating hurricane, Cheney said.
The island of Paris has so far been devoid of direct strikes that have inflicted billions of damage to other military facilities, but has been evacuated twice in the past five years due to hurricanes that hit South Carolina on average every eight years.
In 2018, Hurricane Florence hit Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, washing away a beach used by Marines for training, destroying buildings and displacing staff. In a month, Hurricane Michael tore down Tyndale Air Force Base in Florida, destroying aircraft hangars and causing $ 3 billion in damage.
These disasters should serve as a warning to the island of Paris, Cheney argues. But currently no major repairs are planned – no concrete bulkheads or other dams that could radically reconsider the visual nature of the pillar, no master plan for the construction of buildings immediately.
Hurricane planning focuses on protecting lives and preserving the equipment and buildings needed to limit learning disruptions, said Colonel William Truax, depot director of installations and logistics.
“We’re not embarking on any major projects because we didn’t feel a serious threat to what we should be doing here,” Truax said. “Honestly, these old brick buildings aren’t going anywhere.”
The island of Paris also depends on the resilience of communities near the base. Stephanie Rossi, a planner for the Council of Governments of the Low Countries, said the climate change study, funded by the Ministry of Defense, involves strengthening the single road on and off the island, erecting buildings and strengthening stormwater systems in the area where military families live. to live.
The base is also working with environmental groups to support live coastal projects by creating coastal oyster reefs to strengthen natural buffers from floods and hurricanes.
“The waters will recede,” said Blair, director of the environment. “The more resilient we make this place, the sooner we can get back to building Marines.”