Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Some cities find small steps key to storm protection

Scott Malone in Reuters: In the aftermath of the historic floods caused by Superstorm Sandy, some city leaders have begun to argue for the construction of sea walls capable of shielding the U.S. coastline from ever more intense storms. But in Saco, Maine, storm protection comes in a far less glamorous package. Along what used to be Surf Street, owners of beachfront houses are jacking their homes up to allow storm surges from Saco Bay to flow underneath them.

The northeastern city of 19,000 people has reason to be wary of the water - over the past decade it has washed away six homes and in 2007 took several blocks of Surf Street itself. Today the street is a gravel track along a wall of dishwasher-size chunks of rock built by the city to blunt the force of storm waves.

The road "was damaged several times and we repaired it," said Dick Lambert, Saco code enforcement officer. But after a 2007 nor'easter swept away much of it, "We said, ‘We're spending good money after bad. This time we're going to stop.'"

The Saco City Council in May also adopted a resolution requiring owners of waterfront buildings who rebuild or do substantial renovations to raise them 3 feet above forecast 100-year flood levels - a projection of low-lying areas likely to be flooded once a century on average.

..."People want to look to a big, bold project they can point to that will make people feel safe," such as sea walls, said Adam Freed, a Nature Conservancy director who until August was one of New York City's top officials on sustainability. But those big projects, he added, do not guarantee safety....

The Saco River in Saco, Maine, shot by Decumanus, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Subject to disclaimers.

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