Raising Streets & Entire Islands – Not Just Homes

Raising houses may or may not be enough as oceans rise.  What about the ground-level and below ground infrastructure around such homes?  Will we need to raise public infrastructure and entire islands?

A thoughtful treatment of the issue by Sarah Watson in this Press of Atlantic City article December 8, 2013.  It references a 1990 study by James Titus at EPA, a summer-homeowner on Long Beach Island, NJ who works at EPA and makes a case study of LBI.  It prompted us to add the study to our “More Information” Page, see the bottom of the page here.


Editorial – Press of AC, Sandy’s Lesson’s Painful & Difficult

Editorial from the Press of Atlantic City, originally printed on Monday, October 28, 2013. Hurricane Sandy taught us all many lessons. But now, a year later, as an estimated 26,000 New Jersey residents remain out of their homes and as complaints grow about the maddeningly slow pace of many recovery programs, Professor Seneca’s lesson is one of the more important ones to keep in mind.

Read full editorial here

Watchdog: Some seek buyouts of flooded properties

Written by Todd Bates

Original article can be read at: http://www.app.com/article/20130303/NJNEWS2001/303030013/Some-seek-buyouts-flooded-properties?gcheck=1

Floodwaters flowed into Fran O’Connor’s low-lying Sayreville home three times in the past three years, with devastating results.

The first two storms – a March 2010 nor’easter and Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 – brought about 4 to 5 feet of water into the house. But that was just a warm-up to superstorm Sandy, when at least 10 feet of water inundated the home.

“It actually looked like a war zone here after the storm,” said O’Connor, 54, a 16-year resident of hard-hit Weber Avenue. “The entire contents of everyone’s homes was ripped out and piled up on the curb of their houses.” …

Study: NJ Beaches 30-40 Feet Narrower After Storm

By WAYNE PARRY — Nov. 20 3:01 AM EST

SPRING LAKE, N.J. (AP) — The average New Jersey beach is 30 to 40 feet narrower after Superstorm Sandy, according to a survey that is sure to intensify a long-running debate on whether federal dollars should be used to replenish stretches of sand that only a fraction of U.S. taxpayers use.

Some of New Jersey’s famous beaches lost half their sand when Sandy slammed ashore in late October.

The shore town of Mantoloking, one of the hardest-hit communities, lost 150 feet of beach, said Stewart Farrell, director of Stockton College’s Coastal Research Center and a leading expert on beach erosion.

Routine storms tear up beaches in any season, and one prescription for protecting communities from storm surge has been to replenish beaches with sand pumped from offshore. Places with recently beefed-up beaches saw comparatively little damage, said Farrell, whose study’s findings were made available to The Associated Press.

“It really, really works,” Farrell said. “Where there was a federal beach fill in place, there was no major damage — no homes destroyed, no sand piles in the streets. Where there was no beach fill, water broke through the dunes.”

The beach-replenishment projects have been controversial both for their expense and because waves continually wash away the new sand. The federal government picks up 65 percent of the cost, with the rest coming from state and local coffers.

How big the beaches are — or whether there is a beach at all to go to — is a crucial question that must be resolved before the summer tourism season. The Jersey shore powers the state’s $35.5 billion tourism industry.

But the pending spending showdown between congressional Republicans and Democrats could make it even harder to secure hundreds of millions of additional dollars for beach replenishment.

From 1986 to 2011, nearly $700 million was spent placing 80 million cubic yards of sand on about 55 percent of the New Jersey coast. Over that time, the average beach gained 4 feet of width, according to the Coastal Research Center. And just before the storm hit, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded nearly $28 million worth of contracts for new replenishment projects in southern New Jersey’s Cape May County.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, used a photo of a pig on the cover of his 2009 report “Washed Out To Sea,” in which he characterized beach replenishment as costly, wasteful pork that the nation could not afford.

“Taxpayers are not surprised when they learn how Congress wastes billions of dollars on questionable programs and projects each year, but it may still shock taxpayers to know that Congress has literally dumped nearly $3 billion into beach projects that have washed out to sea,” he wrote.

A message seeking comment was left Monday with Coburn’s office.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, predicted lawmakers from New Jersey and New York would be able to get additional shore protection funds included in the next federal budget, despite partisan wars.

“I think we will be able to make the case,” he said. “We can show that this provides long-term protection to property and lives. You can either pay up front to keep on top of projects like this, or you can pay on the back end” through disaster recovery funds.

Menendez this week noted that Congress has approved emergency recovery funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina and tornadoes in Missouri, among other natural disasters.

During a tour of storm-wrecked neighborhoods in Seaside Heights and Hoboken, Vice President Joe Biden also vowed the federal government would pay to rebuild New Jersey.

“This is a national responsibility; this is not a local responsibility,” Biden said. “We’re one national government, and we have an obligation.”

Jogging in the street because Sandy had destroyed the Spring Lake boardwalk for the second time in little over a year, Michele Degnan-Spang said it was difficult to comprehend how things have changed in her community.

A few stray planks of the synthetic gray boardwalk that was just replaced last year after Tropical Storm Irene were strewn about the sand; concrete pilings that used to support the boardwalk now stretch for a mile off to the horizon like little Stonehenges.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “It’s draining to see this. It’s surreal. I’m walking through it and saying, ‘This really is happening.'”

Degnan-Spang predicted she and her extended family would be back on the sand soon, though.

“The drive is going to be to get back on the beach next summer, no matter what it looks like,” she said. “We don’t go on vacation because we live in the most beautiful spot in the world. We all go to the beach; it’s what summer is. It’ll come back; it’ll just be different.”


Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

Rutgers Tool Simulates the Realities of Sea-Level Rise

Jon Hurdle | March 19, 2013

Original article can be read at: http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/13/03/18/rutgers-tool-simulates-the-realities-of-sea-level-rise/

Online application makes it easy to see at a glance what parts of Jersey Shore will drown if ocean levels climb

At Point Pleasant Coast Guard Station, the rising ocean laps just below the quayside where cars are parked. At Avalon Dunes, it’s shown advancing along a bayside street lined with expensive homes. And at Double Creek Bridge south of Toms River, the waters of the Atlantic creep toward a beachfront house that’s already just yards from the regular high-tide line.

All three scenarios are depicted in photographs simulating the effects of a foot rise in sea-level on the Jersey Shore. These simulations — and others — can be seen thanks to a new online mapping tool published by Rutgers University to help local officials plan for coastal flooding in coming decades.

Some four months after Hurricane Sandy dramatically raised public concern about the power of the ocean, Rutgers officials are alerting government officials, businesses, and individuals to the likely effects of rising seas on their roads, bridges, beaches, docks, homes, and communities.

As ocean volume increase in response to rising global temperatures and melting polar ice caps, the average high-tide level around New Jersey’s coast is likely to be one foot higher than at present by 2050, according to a consensus of national and regional forecasts compiled by Rutgers.

Rutgers’ online tool makes it possible to simulate how increases in sea level will affect parts of the Jersey Shore, such as Lake Como.

That’s about twice as high as the global average because the mid-Atlantic coast is sinking at the same time that waters are rising, creating an especially urgent problem for low-lying areas of coastal Jersey and Delaware — where state officials have forecast up to 11 percent of the land mass could be inundated by three feet of water by 2100.

In an attempt to illustrate the practical effects of a phenomenon that may seem like a long-term abstraction, the mapping tool shows users how some locations would be affected at high tide by specific levels of sea-level rise.

The website invites users to simulate between one and six feet of sea-level rise by using a sliding scale and then to watch the impact of that manipulation on photographs of familiar locations and on local and statewide maps.

At Lake Como, a park bench some distance from the current level the water becomes a tiny island as a user adjusts the slider to three feet, a level that many climate scientists believe will be normal by the end of the century. At West Point Island Bridge near Tom’s River, a steel barrier beside a channel is submerged when the user simulates a four-foot rise in waters.

“While sea-level rise is a global phenomenon, adapting to its impacts is a local decision-making challenge that is going to require site-specific remedies,” said Richard Lathrop, a professor of environmental sciences at Rutgers. “Our goal is to spur long-range planning and adaptation measures. We see the tool as a first step for individual communities to be able to visualize potential vulnerabilities.”

The tool highlights the vulnerabilities of schools, hospitals, fire stations, and evacuation routes to different water levels.

In Cape May County, for example, the map shows schools at Avalon, Stone Harbor, and Wildwood would be submerged as the barrier islands flood beneath a three-foot rise in sea level. In Monmouth County, hospitals in Red Bank and Long Branch would be threatened by the same degree of sea-level rise, the tool indicates.

It also shows Federal Emergency Management Agency projections of what areas of New Jersey are vulnerable under so-called 100-year and 500-year flood projections, or floods so severe that they are deemed to be likely to occur only once in 100 or 500 years.

A swath of the coast from Tom’s River to Cape May and then up the Delaware Bay shore toward Philadelphia is susceptible to 100-year floods, while smaller areas on the Atlantic coast are subject to 500-year floods, according to FEMA’s projections on the mapping tool.

But the FEMA scenario is based on current sea levels and doesn’t take into account any future sea-level rise, Lathrop said. The agency, along with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, is working on a revised model that may be published in coming months, he said.

FEMA’s flood elevations are used as baselines by the National Flood Insurance Program, which insures residents of flood-prone areas. They also govern the state’s ability to determine where development may occur in relation to those areas.

Local and county officials haven’t commented since the tool was published in early March, Lathrop said, but some were involved in its planning, which took about three years.

Lisa Auermuller, watershed coordinator for the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, which is managed by Rutgers, coordinated with local officials and sought their feedback.

“We didn’t assume that ‘if we build it, they will come,’” Auermuller said in a statement. “We listened to what they wanted, and included that in the project so we knew the finished product would be useful.”

Rebuild The Right Way After Sandy Or Pay The Price [AUDIO]

March 19, 2013 5:23 AM
By Kevin McArdle

Original article can be read here.

New Jerseyans have very clear and very strong opinions on rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.

They also think anyone who ignores federal advice about rebuilding should face serious consequences. That’s just a portion of the results from the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University-PublicMind poll released this morning.

“By an almost two-to-one margin poll respondents told us property owners should be required to rebuild in a way that makes their dwelling better protected rather than allowing homeowners to rebuild in whatever manner they choose,” explains Krista Jenkins, Director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “Also by about a two-to-one margin people believe that a failure to heed the advice of FEMA when rebuilding should result in a forfeiture of federal assistance for property owners if another big storm damages their property or wipes it out as opposed to allowing them to recoup their losses.”

Political And Educational Break Downs

Garden Staters of all political and social stripes agree with mandated rebuilding in a specific way. Education is about the only clear predictor of attitudes toward rebuilding, with the educated more strongly in favor of directed rebuilding than those with less than a college degree.

Those with college degrees are significantly more likely to say those affected should be required to rebuild in a specific way (72 percent) or run the risk of forfeiting future assistance (66 percent) as compared with those with high school degrees (53 and 45 percent) or some college (56 and 56 percent).

Even partisanship, something that often divides Garden Staters on issues related to public spending and government intrusion into private matters, is unrelated to attitudes toward rebuilding.

“This is a touchy subject,” says Jenkins. “On the one hand, there are rights of property owners who wish to maintain their freedom to rebuild in the manner they both choose and can afford, while one must also consider the public’s right to make sure money isn’t spent on those who fail to take adequate precautions against the darker side of Mother Nature.”

Sandy Aid And Storm Recovery

The vast majority of Garden Staters were either unaffected personally by Sandy (64 percent) or are now completely recovered (21 percent), but one in seven (15 percent) still say they’re struggling to get back what was lost over four months ago. Their plight is recognized by many New Jersey residents.

When asked if they were satisfied or unsatisfied with the pace of federal assistance to the state, half (51 percent) report dissatisfaction, while significantly fewer (30 percent) are satisfied.

“Taken as a whole, these numbers suggest that Garden Staters are looking for everyone to act responsibly in the aftermath of Sandy,” explains Jenkins. “Property owners should rebuild with adequate protections in place and the federal government should do more to help the hardest hit.”

Coastal Commission OP – Ed

Opinion:  NJ Needs Coastal Commission to Focus on Long-Term Future, Not Immediate Sand Rebuilding

March 9, 2013
Times of Trenton Guest Opinion Columnist Barry Chalofsky

Since Superstorm Sandy, we have been inundated with proposals on how to address rebuilding the coast, both now and in the future. Some of our representatives in the Legislature believe that the state needs to take a stronger role in the process. Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex), for example, wants to create “a state commission that would assume much of the authority for rebuilding the battered shore towns” (“A state agency should oversee Jersey Shore rebuilding in battered towns, lawmaker says,” nj.com, Jan. 4). Andrew Wilner, former New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, has also called for the creation of a coastal commission.

It appears that the governor, and probably much of the state, probably would not endorse the idea. While I think that we need to carefully rethink our rebuilding plans for the coast, I would have to agree that a state commission to oversee rebuilding is probably not going to fly. However, I would like to encourage the creation of a coastal commission that would plan for the future of our coast.

View complete Op-Ed here.