Category Archives: Sandy Storm

A Look at the Challenges of Rebuilding the Jersey Shore

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Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, NJ. Aerial pictures of New Jersey’s coast, after superstorm Sandy devastated the area. Photo courtesy of: © Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) / WCU

Excerpts;

Seaside Heights became the second New Jersey town to award contracts to rebuild its boardwalk when borough officials approved a $3.6 million bid from Sidd Associates this week. The company will rebuild pilings and decking on the 14 block strip in time for the upcoming summer season.

Professor Rob Young is director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University in North Carolina, where the coastline has been battered by hurricanes for many years.

Young talks to WNYC’s Janet Babin about beach nourishment, the perils of rebuilding along the Jersey shore, and some mitigation measures the state is looking at…

An Interview on WYNC News

Experts Urge Caution As $50 Billion In Sandy Aid Passes House

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Mantoloking, NJ. Aerial pictures of New Jersey’s coast, after superstorm Sandy devastated the area. Photo courtesy of: © Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) / WCU

Excerpts;

The House of Representatives passed a bill this week to spend $50 billion to help states struck by Hurricane Sandy. The action comes more than two months after the storm, and the measure now goes to the Senate.

Most of the money is to help people whose homes or businesses have been lost or damaged, or for infrastructure, including bridges and roads. But several billion dollars are pegged for projects to reduce risk of future storms. Some scientists are alarmed, like Rob Young, a geologist at Western Carolina University who studies what happens to structures built along coastlines…

Read Full Article, NPR

Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill Fails to Face Coastal Realities, By Rob Young

Flood Walls For Subways And Sea Barriers Along Coasts

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MTA New York City Transit preparations for Hurricane Sandy. Photo source: ©© MTA NYC

Excerpts;

A commission formed to examine ways to guard against storms like Sandy released a report Friday that calls for flood walls in subways, water pumps at airports and sea barriers along the coast…

Read Full Article, Huffington Post

Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill Fails to Face Coastal Realities
As part of the sorely-needed aid package to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, Congress is also considering spending billions on ill-advised and environmentally damaging beach and coastal rebuilding projects that ignore the looming threats of rising seas and intensifying storms. By Rob Young.

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Photograph: © SAF

Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill Fails to Face Coastal Realities

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Mantoloking, NJ. Aerial pictures of New Jersey’s coast, after superstorm Sandy devastated the area. Photo courtesy of: © Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) / WCU

By Dr. Robert S. Young, Director, Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines and Professor of Coastal Geology at Western Carolina University

Next week, the U.S. Congress is expected to vote on the bulk of $60 billion in emergency spending to provide for recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Clearly, significant aid is needed to repair the damage left by the storm and to help many people put their lives back together. But the bill before Congress includes provisions authorizing spending that would be fiscally irresponsible and environmentally damaging and would set a very bad precedent as we plan for long-term adaptation to rising sea levels and climate change.

The bill goes far beyond the immediate need for emergency assistance by funding a massive coastal engineering effort that is not based on science or wise planning. As currently proposed, the bill would give the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers roughly $4.5 billion to spend on coastal construction projects related to “flood control and risk reduction.” Most troubling, the bill requires the Corps to attempt to rebuild the New Jersey and New York beaches to their “design profile.” In other words, the Corps will work to put the beaches back exactly as they were before the storm, ignoring the reality of rising sea levels and intensifying storms as the world warms.

This is not emergency disaster relief. It is the development of coastal policy. And that ill-advised policy is this: We will try to hold the precarious shoreline in place and protect property and infrastructure with a major investment of taxpayer dollars in coastal engineering.

The money should be spent on long-term solutions such as buying out owners of high-risk properties.

What’s worse, the Corps need only determine that a project is “cost effective.” Projects do not need to have been previously authorized or reviewed, and environmental impacts need not be addressed. The Sandy bill even authorizes the Corps to spend, without environmental review, roughly $1 billion “to address damages from previous natural disasters” unrelated to Hurricane Sandy.

It may be that we, as a nation, decide that it is worth spending billions of dollars to rebuild this nation’s beaches, but the decision should not be taken quickly, or lightly. Such rebuilding projects will only provide temporary relief from rising sea levels and storms — we will need to spend the money again. And there should be full consideration of the science behind the design of each project and the environmental impacts, which the current bill ignoresinvestment of taxpayer dollars in coastal engineering.

What’s worse, the Corps need only determine that a project is “cost effective.” Projects do not need to have been previously authorized or reviewed, and environmental impacts need not be addressed. The Sandy bill even authorizes the Corps to spend, without environmental review, roughly $1 billion “to address damages from previous natural disasters” unrelated to Hurricane Sandy.

It may be that we, as a nation, decide that it is worth spending billions of dollars to rebuild this nation’s beaches, but the decision should not be taken quickly, or lightly. Such rebuilding projects will only provide temporary relief from rising sea levels and storms — we will need to spend the money again. And there should be full consideration of the science behind the design of each project and the environmental impacts, which the current bill ignores. Coastal experts across the country have implored local and federal leaders to take an enlightened approach to replacing infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Sandy and to look for opportunities to change the footprints of communities in an effort to reduce exposure to the next storm. If we are going to invest federal dollars in reducing property at risk in a community, we should be spending the money on long-term solutions, such as relocating roads and buying out the owners of high-risk properties. There are numerous examples of the federal government moving entire towns out of the floodplain after inland floods, including Vallmeyer, Illinois along the Mississippi River. But because it involves high-priced real estate, relocation has never been considered an option for coastal resort communities.

I am not suggesting that the coast should be abandoned. I am suggesting, however, that federal investment in maintaining obviously vulnerable development be reconsidered.

Federal investment in maintaining obviously vulnerable development should be reconsidered.

One might wonder why these coastal resort communities, located in areas of clear and persistent hazard, would continue to rebuild after complete destruction. This is largely due to the fact that the federal and state governments currently provide multiple incentives to rebuild rather than relocate.

The funds for this rebuilding come largely through the public assistance sections of the 1988 Stafford Act. This is the legislation that created the well-known federal system of emergency response. When the president makes a federal disaster declaration for a county, aid dollars flow in with few strings attached, as clearly evidenced in the current proposed emergency spending bill. A community can repeatedly replace the same infrastructure, such as an oceanfront road. Dauphin Island, Alabama has been hit by storms 10 times in the last 30 years, receiving roughly $80 million from the federal government for an area of around one square mile with only 400 homes.

While private insurers are pulling back from the coastal zone, public insurers are filling the void. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provides vulnerable properties access to flood insurance that would not be available in private markets. Last week, Congress passed the first part of the Sandy emergency funding bill, allocating a $9.7-billion increase in the borrowing authority of the NFIP just to meet the insured losses from this storm.

Many states have government-managed pools to keep rates for non-flood property insurance artificially low. The largest insurer of coastal property in Florida is the state, through its Citizen’s Property Insurance Corporation. In places where public funding of health care would be anathema, politicians see little irony in the fact that insurance for coastal investment property is provided by the government.

Finally, federal and state taxpayers have spent billions of dollars over the last four decades pumping up beaches in front of coastal properties and constructing coastal protection projects. In New Jersey alone, approximately $1 billion in public funds have been spent just to preserve beachfront properties — many of them second homes of well-to-do people — and oceanfront infrastructure. The spending for coastal protection in the current Hurricane Sandy bill will make past spending look trivial.

Coastal management by emergency spending has been typical of the federal approach for many years now. But it really shouldn’t be like this. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing the risk of developing in areas of known hazard, and we clearly shouldn’t be using federal funds to rebuild homes and protect beaches in areas we know will be lost again.

Taxpayers should not be subsidizing the risk of developing in areas of known hazard.

At the very least, we need to allow market forces to set insurance rates and property values without the current government subsidy and risk underwriting.

Including spending on future shore protection projects in an emergency spending bill is the wrong approach. Developing a long-term plan for reducing storm and flood risk along a heavily developed shoreline requires time, good science, and a thorough evaluation of the viability of each project. This bill opens the door to a rush of bad decisions with little to no accountability.

The federal government has made an effort to reduce wasteful spending on coastal protection projects during both the Bush and Obama administrations. This one bill will undo 10 years of restraint.

On a positive note, the bill includes $500,000 to evaluate the degree to which pre-existing beach and dune nourishment projects protected property during Hurricane Sandy. The media has widely reported the anecdotal evidence that communities with engineered beaches fared better during the storm than others. But this assertion has not been tested by any systematic, scientific evaluation. Nor does a project’s success at reducing property damage automatically imply that the project is cost-effective for federal taxpayers. So here the Senate bill clearly recognizes the need to understand the efficacy of these very expensive federal projects, but authorizes the spending of billions of dollars before we even get the answers.

The way we as a nation begin to address the long-term vulnerability and viability of coastal resort communities like those along the Jersey Shore deserves a real debate, not a quick, emotional response. The shore protection projects proposed in this emergency bill are temporary fixes. Over the long run, the federal government will not be able to hold every beach in America in place as sea levels continue to rise and storms batter our beaches. The costs are tremendous and are only going up.

If we are going to authorize the spending of $4.5 billion for shore protection, it should be done in a way that is fair, has a national perspective, uses the best science to decide which projects are likely to last and provide the most benefit with the least environmental harm, and assesses the cumulative impacts of reengineering hundreds of miles of coast.

Louisiana has created a model for how this might work. The state’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan evaluated hundreds of potential coastal restoration and protection projects within a framework that was scientific and unbiased. Projects were then prioritized based on the potential outcomes and benefits, not on expediency or politics. There were winners and losers, but the process was fair and organized. Most importantly, there was a recognition that the map of southern Louisiana will look differently 50 years from now than it does today. We can’t protect everyone and everything in situ.

Originally Published in, Yale E 360

Whale Bones On Florida’s New Smyrna Beach Revealed By Superstorm Sandy

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Whales on beach, near New Smyrna, Florida; from a 1909 postcard published by the Hugh C. Leighton Company, Portland, Maine. Nine sperm whales, 35-43 feet long, washed ashore in 1908 near the Ponce de León Inlet Lighthouse (visible in background). Captions and Photo source: ©© Wikimedia

Excerpts;

The skeleton of a rare whale unearthed by superstorm Sandy erosion has been discovered on a Florida beach…

Read Full Article, The Huffington Post

Why We Underestimate the Costs of Climate Change

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Photo source: ©© NCDOT communications

Excerpts;

The wastewater infrastructure of New York and New Jersey was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy; the systems failed because sewage plants were flooded by massive storm surges.

However, the sewage problem in New York and New Jersey is just one manifestation of a larger danger. Once we start to think about how climate change can undermine the basic structures we have built and upon which we rely, it becomes clear that virtually everything is at risk…

Read Full Article, The Huffington Post

Staten Island, Hurricane Sandy And The Impact Of New Homes In Storm-Ravaged Areas

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The John B. Caddell tanker, pictured on November 3, 2012. Photo source: ©© Jim.henderson
On 29 October 2012, during Hurricane Sandy, highwinds and a record 13 foot storm surge caused the 184-foot tanker to break free from her moorings and run aground about a mile away onto Front Street in the Stapleton neighborhood of Staten Island, New York City. More than a month after Hurricane Sandy tossed her ashore, the John B. Caddell was lifted last week, from Front Street in Stapleton. The Caddell posed both an environmental and navigational threat to the New York waterways.

Excerpts;

In a neighborhood of Staten Island where Hurricane Sandy flooded homes, swept boats into the streets, and caused at least two deaths, builders have already resumed construction on a series of new houses, raising concerns among residents who have long tried to halt development in the area.

Many residents fear that the ongoing development of the shorefront might make the area even more vulnerable to storms, in part by directing water away from the new properties and toward older, weaker buildings. “We used to have that land to absorb water,” Carol Zirngibl, a longtime community advocate, said in Crescent Beach on Tuesday, looking at a construction area where workers were hammering together the wooden frames of at least five homes. “We don’t have that anymore.”…

Read Full Article, The Huffington Post

Jersey Shore Development Failures Exposed By Hurricane Sandy

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Ortley Beach and Lavallette, NJ. Aerial pictures of New Jersey’s coast, after superstorm Sandy devastated the area. Photo courtesy of: © Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) / WCU

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Along the two-lane highway that threads this narrow spit of sand on the Jersey Shore, the Driftwood Cabana Club stands out as a monument to Hurricane Sandy’s destruction. Storm-driven waves ripped one building in half. A surge of water tore another structure from its foundation, knocking it on its side.

But the most striking feature of the wreckage laid out here is its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean: The toppled buildings sit on the wrong side of the 10-foot-high concrete-and-rock-seawall that has protected the town for decades, scattered across a stretch of sand that is directly exposed to the sea.

How this exclusive beach club came to be constructed and expanded here, in one of the highest-risk flood zones in the state, offers testament to how New Jersey now finds itself seeking nearly $37 billion in federal disaster relief funds to repair the ravages of Sandy…

Many experts say Sandy presents an opportunity to rethink New Jersey’s future development patterns. Some argue that the most sensible approach would be to pull back from vulnerable coastlines and relinquish some real estate to nature. But already the pressures are building, from homeowners, and from municipalities hungry for property tax revenues, to put everything back the way it was…

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Ortley Beach and Lavallette, NJ. Aerial pictures of New Jersey’s coast, after superstorm Sandy devastated the area. Photo courtesy of: © Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) / WCU

Read Full Article, by Chris Kirkham And John Rudolf, The Huffington Post

Sandy Reminds Us of Coastal Hazards, by Robert Young

We Need to Retreat From the Beach, by Orrin H. Pilkey

Big Weather And Coastal Cities: A Harvard School Of Public Health Webcast


Burned and flooded homes at Breezy Point, Fort Tilden, NY. Aerial pictures of New York’s coast, after superstorm Sandy devastated the area. Photo courtesy of: © Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) / WCU

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Lives turned upside down. Neighborhoods destroyed. Days without power. Crippled transportation.

Is this the new normal for coastal cities?

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Forum at the Harvard School of Public and The Huffington Post are convening some of the experts with expertise in these issues on Monday, December 10 for a panel discussion of the issues coastal cities face in an age of big weather and how they can be addressed.

This Forum event will explore how people and cities rebound from devastating natural disasters and how they prepare for new catastrophes.

The questions they must answer are not only what “things” are needed, but how we can catalyze the necessary political courage and social and regulatory changes. For coastal cities to be resilient in the face of Sandy and her big weather siblings there must be significant adaptation and perhaps fundamental transformation of attitudes and behaviors as well as bridges, tunnels, and buildings…

The panel will be broadcast live on the Web:

WATCH LIVE WEBCAST: Harvard School Of Public Health Forum Monday, December 10, 2012 From 10:30 am to 11:30 am ET

Read Full Article, “With Sandy, A Call for Transforming Coastal Cities” by Eric J.McNulty, The Huffington Post

Harvard School Of Public Health
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, this Forum event will explore how people and cities rebound from devastating natural disasters and how they prepare for new catastrophes. With millions of people living in coastal cities, coupled with changing weather patterns, natural disasters present significant public health and policy implications, from managing crises, to safeguarding infrastructure, to bolstering and leveraging the resilience of people and cities. This Forum event will be presented in collaboration with The Huffington Post.