“The island is mostly made of silt,” unlike a rocky island in Maine or even a sandy island in North Carolina, said Jodi Jones Smith, a coastal scientist who is a consultant to the mayor. “Silt washes away easily.”
If nothing were done, in 70 to 100 years the island would be gone, she said. A few good storms could knock it out much sooner. The only hope, she said, would be to shore it up along its perimeters.
“They spend all their time on this basically one-square-mile area; all their friends, all their family are here. On summer evenings, they’re hanging out on the ridge or out riding their bikes — it’s a community in a sense that I have never experienced in my whole life, ever.”
On Tuesday, many of the 450 or so islanders welcomed elected officials with a huge feast of crab cakes, meatballs, green bean casserole, potato salad and sticky frosted cakes, and schoolchildren sang patriotic songs, some rewritten with Tangier lyrics that made everyone laugh.
“This is the beginning,” Wheatley said of saving the island.
Lochen said the jetty could protect the harbor for 50 years. As for the long term, “the island is very low,” he said, “so it’s very vulnerable to sea level change. You can’t fight nature — eventually the island will be submerged.”
Crockett said: “Where will Tangier be 100 years from now? Right here! I have every confidence in that.” Behind him in the harbor, a waterman pulled dangling blue crabs out of a pot as waves buffeted his low boat. Crockett quoted from the Bible: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”