Climate Change Casualty: Georgetown Waterfront?

August 11, 2013

The Georgetown waterfront is a favorite among boaters in Washington DC. On any given Friday or Saturday night, you’ll find 30-50 boats tied up along the sea wall.

To reach the Georgetown waterfront by boat, you must pass under a series of bridges: Long Bridge (CSX Railroad), Fenwick Bridge (Metro Yellow Line), all 3 spans of the 14th Street Bridge, Memorial Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge. At current sea levels, each bridge provides 25-30 feet of vertical space for vessel passage.

However, what will happen when sea level rises and the bridges stay the same height? Will boats still be able to reach the Georgetown Waterfront? Not unless the bridges are rebuilt or you’re captaining a submarine.

Take a look at the illustrations below, which imagine what the Potomac River would look like based on varying degrees of low and medium tide, courtesy of the Surging Seas Project. Pay careful attention to the bridge clearances.

The Jefferson Memorial today:

The Jefferson Memorial with 25 ft. of sea level rise:

The white cones on the maps show the location and angle of the camera that is seen in the corresponding illustrations.

Map of Washington D.C. today:

Map of Washington D.C. with 25 ft. of sea level rise:


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