WASHINGTON — The Corps is still recovering from nearly $3.6 billion in estimated damages inflicted on East Coast Marine bases from September’s Hurricane Florence.
But with this year’s hurricane season looming, Marines are preparing to battle more than storms. They’re also eyeing a fight with rising coastal waters, both in the coming months and across the span of decades, thanks to global climate change.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller, told audience members at the 2019 Sea Air Space symposium Monday morning, that the Corps is “paying attention” to long-term flood projections nationwide.
“Think about the idea, hypothetically, if you had to move Camp Lejeune or Camp Pendleton," Neller said. “What would it cost us to move? The bill is pretty substantial.”
Neller’s Monday warning echoed a 2018 report by the Center for Climate and Security. It marked both North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton in California as two vital Marine bases potentially threatened by rising seas.
By the end of the 21st century, Camp Lejeune could be exposed to 25 percent flooding from a small Category 1 hurricane, and 40 percent flooding from a Category 4 storm, the paper predicted.
In September, Hurricane Florence neared Marine bases on the East Coast as a Category 3 event, but quickly weakened to a Category 1 storm after making landfall.
It still unleashed massive amounts of precipitation on Camp Lejeune’s aging infrastructure, triggering billions of dollars in property damage, including family housing complexes.
To Neller, the Marines fight from the sea so they need to be located “somewhere where we can get to the sea.”
The top Marine said that none of the new structures on Camp Lejeune suffered damage from Florence, but that hasn’t stopped his Corps from contemplating new building standards and where to stow high tech gear before the next storm strikes.
Data systems and sensitive electronic components “can’t be put in the basement of a building anymore,” Neller told audience members. “Its got to be in a different place.”
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.