The sea is going to rise; that’s almost certain, though by how much and when are both unknown. And if the sea rises, we have options as to the actions we can take in coastal towns. We can build seawalls and levees. We can abandon developed land and buildings and surrender them to the new tidal reach. We can set our town afloat.

The floating option is being developed by the Dutch, who have established a nation based on compromises between water and land. Yes, they continue to work on strengthening and extending dikes and manmade offshore islands. But they understand that a higher sea level is going to intrude in some areas, causing at least occasional flooding. And so they are building arks.

There is a string of 37 houses located along the Maas River in Holland that were designed and built by Dura Vermeer. Such houses can rise 16 feet without problems and contain flexible pipes, electrical, and sewer lines.

The foundation of the sits on the river bottom. If you were to drill a hole through the basement floor, water would come in (so this is not recommended).

When the river floods, the house becomes buoyant. Unlike a boat or an ark, two broad steel posts driven deep into solid ground hold the house in place.

“In the other village we have lived, there was always the water,” said Mariana Smits, a floating homeowner in Maasbommel. “I was very scared. Two times, we have evacuated to leave our old house. This was very scary for us. And we got the opportunity to buy this house. It’s a safe place.”

We’ve got quite a large colony of houseboats nearby in Sausalito. They’re not prepared yet for substantial sea level rise, but float, they do. Here’s the view looking down the Issiquah houseboat dock.

Houseboat dock, Sausalito

Speaking of megacommunity and the alliance of local authorities in charge of different sectors, a couple of recent studies have highlighted a critical disjoint between transporation and climate forecasting, with special focus on the Gulf Coast where major highways, railroads and ports all stand to be submerged as sea level rises and surges from extreme storms send water inland.

Chris Mooney writes this anal ysis in Science Progress, noting how costly it will be to reduce vulnerability in only this area of the country.

To understand that vulnerability, consider a few facts laid out in the CCSP report: Over the next fifty to 100 years, global warming could inundate a “vast portion” of the Gulf Coast with a sea level rise in the range of 2 to 4 feet. That’s terrifying, because “27 percent of the major roads, 9 percent of the rail lines, and 72 percent of the ports are at or below 122 cm (4 feet) in elevation.” And of course, that’s just the risk posed by sea level rise. But as we all know, this region is also very vulnerable to hurricanes–which, surfing atop higher seas in the future, will prove even more devastating than they’ve been thus far. To once again quote from the CCSP report: “With storm surge at 7 m (23 ft), more than half of the area’s major highways (64 percent of Interstates; 57 percent of arterials), almost half of the rail miles, 29 airports, and virtually all of the ports are subject to flooding.”

Given the importance of transportation to support our very lives, not to mention our economies, the communication between transportation planners and climate forecasters just has to improve beyond the status quo. This is a critical megacommunity alliance, without which most of the rest of regional efforts to collaborate are doomed to failure.

It will be a massive task. We’ll need to ensure that the federal government requires higher standards of resiliency in the future for transportation infrastructure. We’ll have to ensure that states and localities get adequate federal funding to help them keep up with a changing climate; and that the relevant federal agencies, especially the Department of Transportation, get enough money in their own budgets to do the requisite climate-related adaptation work. We’ll need to immediately start rebuilding some of our most vulnerable infrastructure. And all of this activity will have to be coordinated, not willy-nilly.

Do you live where transportation systems are vulnerable to the kinds of extreme weather you’ve experienced? Has any planning been considered to reduce vulnerabilities?