View towards the ocean from the home at 145 Dune...

View towards the ocean from the home at 145 Dune Road in Westhampton Beach. (May 11, 2012) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

You don't want to make light of other people's misfortunes, even if they're a long way off and happening in slow motion, but it's human nature to plan ahead, just in case, mind you.

The. U.S. Geological Survey says sea levels on the U.S. East Coast, from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to Boston are not only rising, but rising faster than elsewhere on Earth, and three to four times faster than the global average since 1990.

Since my wife and I live approximately midway in that zone, just outside Washington, D.C., I didn't think it any great disservice to the dispossessed to wonder: Where are we going to build the dock and put the boat when the water finally reaches our backyard? The author of the USGS study, oceanographer Asbury Sallenger, said the faster pace of the rising water level was like "jamming on the accelerator" in a car, an odd metaphor but we get the idea. The sea will shortly be lapping over our ankles.

What is blinding speed to an oceanographer is like watching grass grow -- if you're lucky enough to live in these rare parts of the country where it still rains, watering the crops and putting out the wildfires -- for the rest of us.

Since 1990, the sea level has risen 4.2 inches in Norfolk, Va., and 3.7 inches in Philadelphia. By 2100, USGS says, sea levels could rise as much as 3.3 feet, with another 18 inches to 11 inches on top of that on the East Coast.

We live on the side of a ravine, the Fall Line that separates the Piedmont Plateau from the Coastal Plain, at least that's what my trusty WPA guide to Washington says. Fully flooded, the ravine would make a nice, secluded cove with direct access to the Potomac River.

With a powerboat tied up in the backyard, we could be out on the river in a minute or two and, even though most of the pleasant waterfront places we now patronize would be deep underwater, the capital's hospitality industry is surely up to coping with the challenge.

The Shoreham, a large hotel overlooking low-lying Rock Creek Park, could probably emerge overnight as a nautical-themed hostelry and watering hole with ample docking space out back.

At about 4 inches a year, I'm not sure that I have the time to wait for water deep enough for my boat to arrive, but the people who deny global warming and ice-cap melting have a rich tradition of being terribly wrong so maybe I better order my boat now to beat the Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Northwest Washington rush.

I might even be able to boat to work, although even now the District of Columbia is probably waterproofing its speed cameras and moving them to higher ground and working out a schedule of fees for anchoring downtown.

It probably means nothing, but my neighbor on the other side of the ravine brought his boat home and parked in his driveway. Nobody brings their boat home in a summer where the temperature is regularly in the high 90s.

And the National Park Service has begun bulking up the dike that protects large parts of the National Mall. Yes, there is a dike. You just have to know where to look for it. A word to tourists: If you see the National Park Service putting a huge mound of earth across 17th Street, it's time to start heading uptown.

My own boat rocking gently at my own dock in my own backyard is probably a forlorn dream. But I do take some satisfaction in seeing that endlessly repeated selling point of pitchmen for resort developments thoroughly punctured: "One thing about waterfront property: They're not making anymore of it." Oh, yes they are.

Dale McFeatters is a senior writer for the Scripps Howard News Service.

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