Watch CBS News

'Nuisance flooding' impacts South Baltimore communities as sea levels continue to rise

'Nuisance flooding' impacts South Baltimore communities as sea levels continue to rise
'Nuisance flooding' impacts South Baltimore communities as sea levels continue to rise 03:48

BALTIMORE - Maryland's 3,200 miles of low-lying coastline is becoming increasingly vulnerable to nuisance flooding as our sea levels continue to rise. 

Jessica Albert takes us to the mouth of the Patapsco River to show us how this flooding is impacting South Baltimore communities.

At the Middle Branch Marina, Marti Pitrelli goes fishing, but fish aren't the only thing she's after.

She also fishes out trash. 

She lives at the marina part-time on her boat and while she's there, she uses old crab nets to skim trash off the surface of the water that floats into the marina.

This isn't the only part of the Middle Branch with trash. 

About a mile south of the marina at the mouth of the Patapsco River, WJZ found even more. 

"The water floods regularly along the Middle Branch and every time it comes up it sweeps a whole raft of trash and debris up onto the shoreline," South Baltimore Gateway Partnership Executive Director Brad Rogers said. 

This is called "sunny day flooding." Some call it "nuisance flooding" or even "king tide flooding." It's a phenomenon that causes flooding even without rain. 

A century of data analyzed by WJZ found areas along the harbor are seeing more sunny day flooding than ever before.

Which is why Pitrelli is seeing more trash. 

"I used to do it when the storms came in or when I saw trash, but I've started to notice more and more trash," Pitrelli said. "So, it's almost getting to be almost like a daily part of my routine."

Trash isn't the only concern for those living along the water.

WJZ mapped communities living in flood zones along the Patapsco River, we found thousands of homes and businesses along its shorelines are impacted by nuisance flooding.

"Nuisance flooding is not when a storm comes in and blows a bunch of water onto the land, but it's when the normal cycle of tides produces these huge tides that begin to inundate the soil," Rogers said. "That gets worse and worse as the sea level grows." 

Brad Rogers is the Executive Director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership which is an organization that receives $8 million a year in casino revenues and uses that money to improve the neighborhoods of South Baltimore.

Over the years, he's seen the damage done by nuisance flooding and how it's eroding South Baltimore shores. 

"As flooding gets worse, you have a neighborhood that is getting more and more isolated, more and more vulnerable over time and that's why now is the time to take action," Rogers said.

His organization is partnering with the "Reimagine Middle Branch" project, a community-led initiative to re-connect South Baltimore to the 11-plus miles of shoreline along the Patapsco River. 

A portion of the project is to invest $30 million into rebuilding miles of wetlands and landscaping destroyed by rising sea levels. 

"It's going to improve our protection against flooding and it going to help keep trash and debris out there instead of up here where we have to live with it," Rogers said.

Reimagine Middle Branch will not only protect the coastline but will also bring amenities to the areas along the Patapsco, making it a place South Baltimoreans can enjoy. 

"This is a beautiful waterfront, but it's Baltimore's forgotten waterfront and we're working to turn it into Baltimore's next great waterfront," Rogers said.

Work to restore the wetlands will begin next year and should be done by the summer of 2025.

For stories about rising sea levels across the country, and to watch the documentary 'On the Dot' please visit Arctic melting foreshadows America's climate future

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.