Sarasota News Leader

08/08/2014 & 08/15/2014

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While the Gulf of Mexico affects nearly every corner of Sarasota County — with its beaches, its bayous, inlets and creeks, its bay — it poses its most dramatic question on the region's barrier islands, among them, of course, Longboat Key. The average elevation on the 11-mile-long island stands at just 4 feet, and being surrounded on all sides by water leaves Longboat par- ticularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change: an increased number of powerful storms and the rising level of the sea. "There is nowhere to go," says Alaina Ray, the Town of Longboat Key's director of plan- ning, zoning and building. "We can't retreat." Town Manager Dave Bullock punctuated the seriousness of the threat in May, at a Sarasota Tiger Bay Club gathering. During an otherwise jovial r o u n d o f b a c k - s l a p p i n g b y l o c a l government adminis- trators and managers, Bullock named sea l e v e l r i s e a s t h e region's No. 1 men- ace in coming years. The county has 35 miles of shore on the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Norman Schimmel LONGBOAT LEADS HOW ONE BARRIER ISLAND IS TRYING TO PREPARE FOR RISING SEAS If we can't come up with methods for maintaining the integrity of the island itself, there is nowhere to go. The island becomes uninhabitable. Alaina Ray Director of Planning, Zoning and Building Town of Longboat Key By Cooper Levey-Baker Associate Editor

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