New Ideas for Coastal Flood Protection

‘Living With Water’: Cities Facing Climate Change Trade Sea Walls for Parks

To protect itself from a devastating flood, Boston was considering building a massive sea wall, cutting north to south through nearly 4 miles of Boston Harbor, taking $11 billion and at least 30 years to build. But a new plan unveiled in October represents a 180-degree turn: Instead of fighting to keep the water out, the city is letting it come in.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a Democrat, announced the city would be scrapping the idea of a sea wall in favor of, among other things, a system of waterfront parks and elevation of some flood-prone areas. The city will add 67 new acres of green space along the water and restore 122 tidal acres.

Coastal Peril – flood risk

From HSNewswire: Flood risk denial in U.S. coastal communities

Rising sea levels have worsened the destruction that routine tidal flooding causes in the nation’s coastal communities. On the U.S. mainland, communities in Louisiana, Florida and Maryland are most at risk. Stemming the loss of life and property is a complex problem. Elected officials can enact policies to try to lessen the damage of future flooding. Engineers can retrofit vulnerable buildings. But, in the face of a rising tide, changing hearts and minds might be the most formidable obstacle to decreasing the damage done by flooding.

Coastal Issues for Boston

The Wall St. Journal published an article on Jan. 28th titled: Boston Agonizes Over How to Protect Itself from Future Storms; cities that designated protections for past floods find future ones may be worse, but changes carry huge price tags.

Since you have to subscribe to the WSJ in order to read it, I cannot post the full article here. I do have a copy of the full text and would be willing to share it with a limited no. of readers who request it.

LA a Leader in Coastal Plain Management

Louisiana, Sinking Fast, Prepares to Empty Out Its Coastal Plain

  • State weighs buyouts, prohibiting new development, tax hikes
  • Policy could become template for climate adaptation nationwide

Louisiana is finalizing a plan to move thousands of people from areas threatened by the rising Gulf of Mexico, effectively declaring uninhabitable a coastal area larger than Delaware.

A draft of the plan, the most aggressive response to climate-linked flooding in the U.S., calls for prohibitions on building new homes in high-risk areas, buyouts of homeowners who live there now and hikes in taxes on those who won’t leave. Commercial development would still be allowed, but developers would need to put up bonds to pay for those buildings’ eventual demolition.

“Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s Tale”

The Diva has been contemplating the concept of resilience, as described in the document Disaster Resilience; A National Imperative, published by the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. Reviewing it against the present setting of disaster recovery efforts in Houston, TX, the State of FL, and all of Puerto Rico has raised many questions.

Reading this powerful article in the N.Y. Times suggests to me that it is time to review current thinking about resilience and about emergency management in general. See: Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s TaleSome key excerpts:

For years, the local authorities turned a blind eye to runaway development. Thousands of homes have been built next to, and even inside, the boundaries of the two big reservoirs devised by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s after devastating floods. Back then, Houston was 20 miles downstream, its population 400,000. Today, these reservoirs are smack in the middle of an urban agglomeration of six million.

Unfortunately, nature always gets the last word. Houston’s growth contributed to the misery Harvey unleashed. The very forces that pushed the city forward are threatening its way of life.

Sprawl is only part of the story. Houston is also built on an upbeat, pro-business strategy of low taxes and little government. Many Texans regard this as the key to prosperity, an antidote to Washington. It encapsulates a potent vision of an unfettered America.

After every natural calamity, American politicians make big promises. They say: We will rebuild. We will not be defeated. Never again will we be caught unprepared.
But they rarely tackle the toughest obstacles. The hard truth, scientists say, is that climate change will increasingly require moving — not just rebuilding — entire neighborhoods, reshaping cities, even abandoning coastlines.

We need a whole new structure of governance,” he insisted. “We’ve built in watersheds, paved roads and highways because we don’t have mass transit.
“Inevitably, it all catches up with us,” the judge said. “Mother Nature has a long memory.”

See also this posting dated Sept. 7th: What H. Harvey Says about Risk, Climate, and Resilience.

“Achieving Resilience in Coastal Communities”

New report from the National Wildlife Federation, released on the anniversary of H. Katrina. See: Achieving Resilience in Coastal Communities: Resources and Recommendations. 268 pages.

As noted by my friends at the National Hazards Mitigation Association, some of the contents of this report are a bit out of date.  Some of the material was prepared in 2011-2012 and thus does not reflect more recent changes in laws (such as the Post Katrina Act), executive orders,  policies, court decisions etc.

Coastal Disasters – new NAS report

Update on August 22. From the New York Times: A Project Built on Sand

The take-away from the National Research Council was alarming: There is no national plan to manage the coast. No plan for storm-damage reduction. No plan for how best to allocate federal funds. And no plan for how to respond to coastal hazards and rising sea levels over the long run.

Original Article in the HuffPost: Scientists Urge For Funds To Prevent Coastal Disasters, Not Just Recover From Them.

A group of top scientists has called for a fundamental change to how the United States deals with risks to its Atlantic and Gulf coasts from storms and climate change in a National Research Council report released Wednesday.

Urging a “national vision” toward addressing coastal risks, the report comes on the heels of a Reuters analysis published earlier this month showing that coastal flooding along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard of the United States has surged in recent years, with steep financial consequences.

The great majority of money — most of it federal dollars — spent on coastal risks goes toward recovery after a disaster rather than on planning for and mitigating against storms, climate change and sea-level rise, the report said.

The direct link to the NAS for a free download of the full, 130 page report that is titled Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts is here.

Here is another account, from the National Geographic.