Monday, December 10, 2012

Protecting New Jersey from future storms could cost billions

James M. O'Neill in The price of protecting New Jersey from rising sea levels and the devastation of future storms is breathtaking, making it seem at times that the problem is insurmountable.

Some options that have been floated include $7.4 billion to buy all 13,300 structures in the Passaic River basin at risk of being flooded by a catastrophic storm, or $2.7 billion for a tunnel to protect Wayne and other towns by guiding storm runoff out to Newark Bay.

While the huge engineering projects garner much of the attention, some experts argue that less glamorous, lower-priced and smaller-scale initiatives replicated over a wide area can often produce dramatic results. Many of these strategies — from rebuilding beaches and dunes that have been scoured away by waves, to improved building codes that help structures withstand storms — have already proved effective in New Jersey.

The specifics of certain proposals can be debated, but most agree something needs to be done. Just in the past year or so, the state has been hammered by unusually intense storms that have caused damage in very different ways. Sandy pounded the Jersey Shore and the state’s electrical grid while swamping Moonachie and Little Ferry as well as the region’s largest sewage treatment plant. In August of 2011, Hurricane Irene caused historic flooding along the Passaic River. The October snowstorm of 2011 downed trees and put much of North Jersey in the dark.

“The results of Sandy were devastating and it wasn’t even a Category 1 hurricane when it hit,” said Lisa Auermuller, a watershed coordinator at Rutgers University’s Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences. “Storms are likely to be more severe over time. And with sea level rise, even regular tides are going to be higher. Some shore communities are already seeing that.”...

Soldiers assist residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken, N.J., Oct. 31, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the New Jersey National Guard. US Army photo

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