Rescue Island Community from Rising Sea Levels

Target: Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia

Goal: Fund urgent efforts to protect Tangier Island from erosion and rising sea levels.

A small, low-lying island in Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Island is home to a tight-knit community of crab and oyster fishermen that has called the island home since the 1600’s. However, their lifestyle and the very land they stand on is at risk. It’s estimated that due to rising sea levels, coastline erosion, and the natural sinking of the land, the island will be uninhabitable in 50 years and completely gone in a century. Several ambitious projects to save the island have been proposed by the state of Virginia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), but have stalled due to lack of funding.

With its highest point at 4 feet above sea level and low salt marshes occupying the majority of the land, Tangier is estimated to lose 9 acres of shoreline annually. The island has been reduced by nearly two thirds since 1850, and it has seen neighboring islands face the same fate. However, the majority of locals are refusing to leave their homes without a fight.

According to a study recently completed by the USACE, there is a chance to preserve the island, but it requires swift and decisive action. The first step would be a 500-foot-long breakwater, or a stone jetty across the channel that leads into Tangier’s vulnerable harbor. Although the plan for the breakwater was first made in 1996, funding has been slow to trickle in, and construction of the jetty isn’t expected to begin until 2018.

Even when this breakwater is eventually built, it is only a partial solution to Tangier’s problem. The USACE has outlined the plan for a series of segmented breakwaters that, if completed, would effectively protect all of the island’s most vulnerable shores. Further, the USACE has proposed a plan to build up the lowest dunes and salt marshes and plant vegetation to hold the land in place. This ambitious plan would cost $20-$30 million and needs the full support of the state and federal governments.

Without these protective measures, Tangier Island will be submerged within a century and its tight-knit community will be displaced and forgotten. Call on Virginia’s governor to devote funding to urgent efforts to preserve the island.


Dear Mr. McAuliffe,

Erosion and rising sea levels threaten all coastal areas, and Virginia’s many small islands are in particular danger due to the natural sinking of the land surrounding Chesapeake Bay. Tangier Island, one of the area’s last inhabited islands, requires swift action to save it from being submerged in the coming century.

Tangier is home to a unique community of crab and oyster fishermen who have lived on the island for generations and have their entire families buried there. They are determined to fight for their homes for as long as possible, and need the support of their state government to do so.

The USACE has created the plan for a breakwater to be built in 2018 once funding has been gathered to protect Tangier’s main harbor. However, more urgent and comprehensive action is required in the form of a series of breakwaters around the island. This project needs significant funding from Virginia’s government and strong support to gain federal funds. Please ensure that this project gets the funding it needs.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: J. Albert Bowden II

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