Category Archives: New England

New England Coastal Resiliency Leaders

 

The case for action

As hurricane season arrives, the elements of disaster are once again converging.

Bigger storms, fed by rising seas, are slamming up against America’s aging coastal infrastructure.

This was evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when an unprepared East Coast lost $68 billion.

Today, the triple threat of storms, sea-level rise and crumbling roads and bridges is no less obvious. The future of the coasts, and the country, is at stake, with millions of lives and trillions of dollars subject to the next major weather event.

And yet — call it partisan gridlock or political inertia — the failure to act could not be more alarming.

We are not in a position to act because the overlapping maze of federal, state and local regulations is holding up even modest reconstruction and disaster relief projects.

Let’s take a minute to elevate our vision. Imagine a larger-scale national effort to ensure that today’s vulnerabilities can become tomorrow’s points of resilience. Imagine a coastline that would not be mangled by every hurricane that came along. Imagine a coastal system that combined natural and soft engineering systems with the kinds of high-tech harbor defenses that have been introduced in European nations.

We would propose three objectives:

  • Change our existing coastal policy that moves away from minor repairs and middling responses, and towards a focus on long-term, high-tech infrastructure investment;
  • Create a single federal agency along the lines of the Federal Highway Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Secure funding on the order of the Dwight. D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

Businesses begin climate planning

American businesses are increasingly taking climate into account in their business plans, according to a May 21 article in the Boston Globe:

Developers have moved electrical units from the basements to rooftops of buildings in the Seaport District along Boston Harbor. Utilities in New England have elevated substations several feet above the ground and replaced wooden electrical poles with steel ones that can withstand powerful winds.

Insurance companies, in response to clients, are testing products designed to protect against varied effects of climate change, and providing more coverage against natural disasters. The Hartford insurance company now offers small businesses policies against losses due to widespread power outages, a growing concern as major storms occur more frequently.

“We think the time for debating [climate change] is over,” said Ed White, vice president of customer strategy and environment for National Grid, a British company with its US headquarters in Waltham.

Threat of rising flood levels alters Massachusetts landscape

The threat of rising flood levels is slowly changing the face of many Massachusetts communities.

Existing waterfront properties are moving up or back to escape potential flooding. Other structures are going away entirely, leaving a buffer area to blunt future floods. Municipalities are updating construction codes to require heating and cooling systems be moved from basements to higher floors. Boston Patriot Ledger, Jan. 6, 2014.

Boston suburbs underwater by 2088

In 75 years, experts predict, residential neighborhoods and business centers in towns like Duxbury, Marshfield and Scituate will be underwater during every high tide.Kleinfelder, a technical firm that studies the effects of climate change, said rising sea levels caused by global warming will pose a potentially catastrophic threat to the South Shore’s coastal infrastructure. The firm presented its findings Thursday during a public hearing in Scituate. By 2088, the firm said, Scituate’s Front Street shopping district, Duxbury’s Snug Harbor developments and Marshfield’s Fieldston neighborhood are among the areas that could get up to 2 feet of flooding twice a day. During a major storm, these parts could take on 4 feet of water or more.  Boston Patriot-Ledger, May 17, 2013.

FEMA knew flood maps inadequate

When Patrice and Philip Morgan bought a house near the ocean in Brooklyn, they were not particularly worried about the threat of flooding. Federal maps showed their home was outside the area at a high risk of flood damage. For that reason, the government did not require them to buy flood insurance.   See FEMA knew flood maps left NYC unprepared for Sandy.   Climate Central. 27 December 2013.