Readers of these pages will recognize the Netherland’s Henk Ovink. He is the Dutchman who came to the US after Sandy to share his country’s expertise in resilient designs for living with and staying safe from flooding.
He was also profiled in the NY Times Magazine around the time of the Rebuild by Design Competition that he led.
But a Dutch graduate student in landscape architecture may be giving him a run for his money. Marit Noest came to NJ two years after Sandy and after completely un-learning the Dutch way of doing things, she successfully wrapped her head around the American approach to the situation. She made a film called At the Edge for her graduate thesis which incorporates people’s attitudes towards rebuilding and using and enjoying the shore. She also made a terrific design for a stronger Asbury Park beachfront that lets people enjoy what the shore has to offer while making it much more resilient.
Trailer of the film here. And a presentation of Marit’s thesis plus the film here
We encourage you to fully explore everything about the project here. https://creatingattheedge.wordpress.com/
Staten Island Using Oyster Reefs to Protect From Storms
One of the winners of the Rebuild-by-Design competition is a plan to protect the South Shore of Staten Island with reefs of oysters. Full story, map and diagram here.
Oysters used to be abundant in NY and NJ waters and the oyster industry literally built many of the cities in the region. Oysters provide an additional benefit of filtering the water they live in, thereby cleaning it. Unfortunately, pollution and runoff exceeded the oysters’ ability to clean the water in which they lived, and oysters and their reefs died off.
Just before the big weekend winter storm Jonas which brought heavy snowfall and severe coastal flooding to southern coastal NJ, HUD announced the grant awards through the National Disaster Resilience Competition. And the biggest losers was…the State of NJ. That’s right, the state that was hit the hardest by Sandy got the least. But let’s unpack this a little. We are certainly not in the “sour grapes” camp who think this is political and people don’t like NJ. Not at all. Read about the grant awards here.
The main criticism was the NJ’s application did not leverage these federal funds. That means that NJ wasn’t putting in any of its own money. What with tax breaks to rich people, a pennies on the dollar settlement with Exxon, who has extra money for things like resiliency to disasters?
But the feds probably also see how any money they give NJ would probably be a bad investment anyway. They see the massive re-write of the rules on development in the coastal zone; the ones that make it easier to develop in the coastal zone, the ones that don’t mention sea level rise or climate change in their 1000 page re-write of those rules. They realize NJ is not serious about resiliency or preventing the next disaster.
The NYC proposal got $176 million as opposed to NJ’s $15 million. But look at what NYC is proposing; a massive flood-wall on the edge of Manhattan that will serve as a park, open space, greenery around an island of concrete. It sounds like a terrific addition to the City even without the flood protection, which it also provides. Whereas NJ’s proposal was to simply start a planning process, develop flood mapping tools and develop a list of best practices. This stuff already exists.
A great look forward by these Virginia municipalities to plan for sea level rise. By mapping out what roads are underwater when, they can plan to re-route or re-locate those roads in the future. They can also make changes to storm-water systems, where storm-water goes, etc. It all starts with a map. Jordan Pascale of the Virginian-Pilot tells us more.
But this makes us wonder, why is it OK to relocate a road based on where the water will be in the future, but if you try to relocate a home, it is Un-American?
You know how hundreds of thousands of “snow birds” go to Florida to spend the winter, mostly older Americans? We predict the trend will reverse in the future, and permanently, with millions of people leaving Florida and returning to the cities of origin that are slightly higher above sea level.
The New Yorker has a really good piece with on the ground (albeit soggy) observations from Miami. Predictions of Sea Level Rise are not academic “what-if”, type scenarios. Parts of the city flood regularly on full moons and king tides. Elizabeth Kolbert got her feet wet to bring us this one.
Try not to fall asleep while we explain Parametric Insurance, which is used in parts of Mexico. Given that Hurricane Patricia just passed through that country, with surprisingly less damage than expected, let’s get a handle on parametric insurance as a possible tool in our Rethink toolbox.
Weather can be unpredictable as we know, with not-so menacing storms causing way more damage than anyone expected; like the South Carolina rainfall of October, 2015. And then some super-gnarly storms come ashore and it is not as bad as predicted, like Hurricane Patricia in Mexico recently.
But with parametric insurance, a certain event triggers the payout from the insurers, instead of a lengthy assessment of damage afterwards. For hurricanes, the event is typically barometric pressure. If the pressure falls below 920 millibars within a certain distance of a major city like Acapulco, then there is a payout. No insurance adjusters need to be sent out and see how much damage there was. No scenarios where the insurance company argues it was wind and not flood that damaged the property.
It’s a pretty fair system since an area of pressure that low would typically bring about a lot of damage. But the big thing is the speed of the determination and the speed of the payout. It is not necessarily more money from the insurer (like they’d ever go for that), but a quicker payout. The event happened and no one disputes that so insurers pay. That speed can make a huge difference in the recovery of the people on the ground. Considering that after Hurricane Sandy, Congress took three months to approve relief money, and that three years after Sandy some people are still waiting to get back into their homes, any increase in how fast insurance payments are made is worth looking at.
To be clear, these instruments are offered by re-insurers like Swiss Re and Munich Re. The policyholders are parts of the Mexican Government, not individual homeowners. But isn’t it worth exploring here?
A new study by Rutgers, Penn State Princeton, Tufts, and MIT suggests that storms are getting more frequent and more intense along the NJ coast was released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ben Horton of Rutgers was part of the team and you will remember him from the film Shored Up.
“A storm that occurred once in seven generations is now occurring twice in a generation,” he said.
Full story by Wayne Parry in the Record here.
We’ve been on vacation here at Rethink the Jersey Shore, on a barrier island. It is hurricane season after all so the summer reading included Issac’s Storm by Erick Larson. We could barely put it down.
It’s about the hurricane that struck Galveston, TX in 1900; the incredible hubris of forecasters and residents alike, and the incredible devastation that followed.
Of course people will say that could never happen these days. But that’s what they said back then. Looking backwards at what has happened before and preparing for that has never served us well. Imagination of how bad it could be, and preparing for such a scenario is the best course of action. In this case, a glance back helps prepare the imagination.
Former NASA Scientist and preeminent climate predictor James Hansen has released a new study saying the ice sheets of Greenland are melting 10 times faster than predicted and there could be 10 feet in sea level rise by 2100. He also says a 2 degree (only) increase in global temperatures as a target for an international agreement on climate change is not going to cut it.
This man has been called alarmist, and right by the same people. Great coverage on Slate.com by Eric Holthaus here.
And also in the Daily Beast here by Mark Hertsgaard
This is more like unplanned retreat than coastal relocation. But here is what can happen when science is ignored and development is allowed where it should not be. This article in Grist by Greg Hanscom is about Cedar Island, VA and the fate of the last house standing here.