After Hurricane Sandy exposed New York City to catastrophic coastal flooding, more than ten years have passed. In order to stop future billion-dollar tragedies, the NY-NJ region has been presented with a number of cost-effective flood megaprojects, such as levees and storm surge barriers, but none of them has been implemented. Recent research from Princeton University and Rutgers University examines real-world scenarios to draw actionable recommendations. Researchers looking at climate adaptation have put forth theories for why so few municipalities have built massive flood protection measures that are both affordable and effective.
Two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood megaprojects arose concurrently in Rhode Island after a busy period of storm activity in the 1950s, according to a study that was extensively evaluated in the Water Resources Planning and Management journal. The study notes that modern environmental laws are the reason behind the politically challenging nature of storm surge barriers. According to their research, present environmental rules incentivize opponents of projects to file lawsuits, which makes storm surge barriers politically difficult. Additionally, they discover that even when alternative choices may not provide the same level of security, the general public tends to prefer them because they are more attractive, more affordable, and easier to adopt. The authors offer recommendations for how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should enhance its planning procedure in order to meet these limitations.
Political and public support is a key determinant of project success.
Over the past half-century, the design of storm surge protection hasn’t changed a lot according to the lead author of the research, D J Rasmussen. Because they can disturb the natural environment and are unsightly, many designs are disliked by the general public and environmental NGOs. Rasmussen suggested that more well-liked designs could increase the effectiveness of installing coastal adaptation.
Flood protection megaprojects, such as levees and storm surge barriers, that may protect densely populated areas typically fail to be built, even though scientific assessments of the designs demonstrate that they are cost-effective alternatives. Investigating the circumstances surrounding the two projects in Rhode Island led the researchers to the conclusion that political and public support is a key determinant of project success.
From the period of 1938 to the 1950s, Rhode Island experienced several flooding events and storms, which took hundreds of lives of the residents while causing damages worth more than $100 billion. Following Hurricane Carol in 1954, the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier, which was intended to shield Providence from hurricanes, won swift approval from local business leaders and nearly universal support from the public at public hearings. The researchers draw the conclusion that high public support increases the support of elected officials, which is essential for effectively advancing significant infrastructure projects through Congress.
Over the past half-century, the design of storm surge protection hasn’t changed a lot.
The Narragansett Bay Hurricane Barriers, on the other hand, garnered little initial support despite being proposed during the same period as Hurricane Carol. Communities in a region where fishing and coastal tourism are major industries expressed increased concern about how the proposed obstacles will affect marine navigation, water quality, fish and animals, and recreational activities. The US Army Corps of Engineers, on the other hand, paid little attention to these factors, concentrating instead on the project’s engineering and flood prevention components while offering little discussion of alternate tactics. Community members were upset because it appeared that the Army Corps of Engineers completely disregarded popular opinion. Time went on, and public opinion grew more negative, making the proposal politically untenable.
Additionally, the researchers advise the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a study into the efficiency and dependability of such substitutes to boost their own confidence in how these would stack up against more established coastal flood reduction equipment.