Here is another innovative idea, don't subsidize risky living:
A string of artificial islands off the coast of New Jersey and New York could blunt the impact of storm surges that proved so deadly during Superstorm Sandy, according to a new proposal.
It's a big proposal – one that would cost up to $12bn – but it's also the kind of innovative idea that federal officials requested as they consider how best to protect the heavily populated east coast from future storms. ...
The "Blue Dunes" proposal is part of a competition sponsored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to come up with novel ways to protect Americans against the next big storm. It is one of 10 projects that will be evaluated and voted on next week, but there's no guarantee any of them will receive funding. Other ideas include building sea walls around cities, re-establishing oyster colonies in tidal flats to blunt waves and creating water-absorbent nature and recreational preserves.
The artificial islands plan was created by Stevens Institute, along with the WXY architectural firm and West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. It is designed to blunt the worst effect of Sandy: the storm surge that pounded the coast. From Maryland to New Hampshire, the storm was blamed for 159 deaths, and New Jersey and New York alone claimed a total of nearly $79bn in damage. ...
The islands, 10 to 12 miles off the coast, would be uninhabited, although day trips for surfing or fishing might be allowed, Blumberg said. They would be built by pumping sand atop some hard base made of rock, concrete or other material.
Steve Sandberg, a spokesman for Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said funding for at least some of the proposals is already available as part of the $60bn in Sandy aid that Congress passed last year. Other money could come from disaster recovery grants as well as public and private-sector funding.
A gap would be left between the New York and New Jersey island groups to allow water from the Hudson River to flow out into the ocean.
Blumberg also said computer modeling has shown such islands would have produced vastly lesser damage during Sandy, Hurricane Donna in 1962 and the destructive December 1992 nor'easter.
Aside from the formidable cost, many other obstacles remain. ...
In an extraordinary turnabout, House members seem set to abandon bedrock principles of fiscal conservatism by voting on a bill to undermine the Biggert-Waters flood insurance reforms. Those reforms would have put the highly-indebted National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in a more solvent position, benefiting taxpayers who have been footing the growing bill for costs of flooding. They would have also helped shine a light on the growing risks and costs of development along parts of our coasts threatened by sea level rise, storm surge, and flooding. ...
The Grimm-Cassidy bill goes even further than a Senate bill passed at the end of January that delayed Biggert-Waters reforms by four years, as well as a previous proposal sponsored by Representative Waters to delay provisions of the Biggert-Waters act. Rather than finding a sensible middle-of-the-road compromise that would protect coastal communities and taxpayers, the House seems to have resorted to an extremely short-sighted political maneuver.
The most damaging provision in the bill (see section 4) seeks to permanently restore grandfathered insurance premiums, in some cases based on decades-old flood risk maps. To pay for this costly provision, the bill also imposes a surcharge on all policyholders regardless of their true flood risk (see section 6). The annual surcharge would be $25 for most homeowners and $250 for businesses and second homes. ...
Rather than addressing genuine affordability concerns in an environmentally responsible way, this bill perpetuates and furthers an unfair system where some of the most risky properties will continue to be subsidized at the expense of other policy holders and taxpayers. Wealthier property owners, who own a disproportionate share of the value of at-risk coastal property, stand to benefit the most. Furthermore, it will leave homeowners unaware of their true flood risks.
Of course, Congress must address flood insurance affordability. Phasing in premium increases more slowly and accompanying that with a means-tested voucher program are among the options they should explore, as we laid out in a memo to House members last week.
Not often, in my opinion. But here is a counter example:
With Wrightsville Beach nourishment slated to begin in March, some local officials wonder how much a nearly century-old piece of legislation is driving up the cost.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, includes a requirement that all vessels traveling between U.S. ports be constructed in the United States, as well as owned and operated by U.S. citizens.
This rule extends to dredges working on domestic beach nourishment projects, including the one planned for Wrightsville Beach, for which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded an $8.3 million contract to Covington, La., based Weeks Marine, Inc. in December 2013.
Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, said during a Feb. 25 interview he believes the Jones Act increased the cost, because it effectively restricts those projects to a limited domestic dredge fleet. Catlin was one of several local officials who expressed concerns that heightened demand on domestic dredging companies in the Northeast, as a result of continuing cleanup from Hurricane Sandy, would either result in no bids or would drive contractors’ bids up beyond the maximum level at which the project could be funded.
This one isn't covered in the benefit-cost analysis textbook:
We shelved the article for reasons I no longer remember, but recently, local stories have appeared on the funding, salaries and even compensation to board members of the Southern Environmental Law Center and their clients.
The figures are public record because non-profits file a federal tax form 990, which lists salaries of key employees as well as income and expense sources.
I focused on the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) because they are engaged in four issues locally: the closure of federal beaches along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Bonner Bridge replacement over Oregon Inlet, the Mid-Currituck Bridge and most recently, a sweeping redefinition of “critical habitat” for loggerhead sea turtles that may extend the federal regulatory reach to beaches currently managed at the state, county or municipal level.
SELC is a law firm, thus its primary salaries are paid to staff attorneys and administrative personnel.
The general public usually overestimates salaries earned by attorneys, especially in small towns and rural environments. In reality, it is not unusual to see many attorneys, similar to “family doctors,” earning incomes that barely breach six figures in this region.
While many may think the salaries described in the accompanying charts are not excessive, I believe the story here is a comparison to the gap between what people are earning from litigating for so-called environmental causes and the incomes of the residents whose livelihoods, already fragile in places such as Hatteras Island, can be affected by the litigation. ...
People’s opinions on the salaries earned by these environmental crusaders may vary as to whether they are excessive or not.
But the incomes and lifestyles of the people on Hatteras Island, who are directly affected by the actions of the three organizations, are well below the compensation one can earn by challenging beach access and new bridges.
Comparing incomes of those working for those who want to legally challenge threats against "so-called environmental causes" is not something that I've encountered in print. Apparently, if the lawyers make $150,000 and the tackle shop and restaurant workers make less, then the SELC has no right to try to work the legal system to get their preferred bridge project in place.
And, actually, the salaries paid to the SELC are some evidence that this "so-called environmental cause" has large passive use values since the salaries are paid by voluntary contributions.
I would argue, if I had a platform to make such an argument (e.g., a blog), that policy decisions guided by benefit-cost analysis would be a much less costly way of moving forward. The environmental benefits of a more environmentally friendly bridge (i.e., one that bypasses the dynamic Oregon Inlet) or a high speed ferry (including passive use values) should be compared to the increased transportation and construction costs.
Gale warnings are posted on Hatteras Island, and that means more ocean overwash is likely for N.C. 12 – but probably not enough wind and waves, this week, to close the barrier island highway.
Weather and road conditions are important for repair crews working on an old bridge that takes N.C. 12 over Oregon Inlet; and for engineers preparing to build a new bridge on N.C. 12 south of there on Pea Island; and for Outer Banks folks planning to attend public hearings that will help the state decide where to put a second new bridge a few miles farther down N.C. 12, at the Hatteras Island village of Rodanthe. ...
One option is to keep the highway where it is but lift it up on a 2.5-mile bridge, high above the dune line. The other is to put it onto a 3-mile bridge that would curve out into Pamlico Sound and return to the present N.C. 12 path at Rodanthe. ...
The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge reopened Sunday, less than two weeks after it was closed because of safety concerns about severe erosion.
The bridge linking the northern Outer Banks to Hatteras Island via N.C. 12 stopped carrying traffic Dec. 3, the first closure for repairs in 23 years. Motorists were forced to take a two-hour ride aboard emergency ferries between Rodanthe and Stumpy Point. Those ferries were to stop running early this morning, based on need.
Engineers concluded the bridge was safe for traffic after driving two test pilings and conducting sonar scans and inspections, according to a North Carolina Department of Transportation news release. The agency said it was confident that dredge work to deposit 30,000 cubic yards of sand from the Oregon Inlet channel around bridge supports fortified the structure.
Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said in the release that inspections and sonar scans will continue. “If safety becomes a concern again, we will take the appropriate steps to ensure public safety,” he said.
May it please the court of public opinion: The Southern Environmental Law Center concedes that its attorneys work in Chapel Hill offices that might – on certain summer occasions – be regarded as air-conditioned.
But as to the charge of latte-drinking: Not guilty.
“They probably drink Coca-Colas and coffee,” Tom Taft Sr. of Greenville, an attorney and former state senator who serves on the non-profit environmental law firm’s board of trustees, told the Road Worrier. “But not expensive coffee.” ...
Derb S. Carter Jr., who heads the SELC office in Chapel Hill, said the jibe about lattes was “among many inaccuracies” in last week’s broadsides from McCrory and Tata.
“I actually hate lattes, and drink black coffee,” Carter said.
Signs warn motorists as they enter the Camp Hatteras National Seashore that the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet is closed eight miles ahead. The NC DOT deemed the bridge unsafe for vehicles on Tuesday and shut it down due to erosion around support struts
Transportation Secretary Tony Tata flew to Dare County on Wednesday to explain his decision to shut down the N.C. 12 Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet because of rapid erosion that has undermined bridge supports – and to lambaste the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“These ivory tower elitists file these lawsuits from their air-conditioned offices in Chapel Hill,” Tata said. “And they do so with their lattes and their contempt, and chuckle while the good people of the Outer Banks are fighting hard to scratch out a living here based on tourism and based on access.”
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