$26US Billion - Is This Wise?

David Trammel's picture

Expect more of these proposals:

"A $26 Billion Plan to Save the Houston Area From Rising Seas"

I know the political and social pressure is to protect what is in place, no matter the cost, rather than face the fact that we need to move away from areas that are most at risk.

lathechuck's picture

There was a great hurricane in 1900, described in the book (and film) "Isaac's Storm" that killed over 6000 people (of 37,000) and ruined Galveston. They should have learned from that, instead of building back on the island. The WIRED article does a bit of bait-and-switch, with "Houston" in the title, but the area at risk is really Galveston. Houston is at risk from high winds and flooding rain, which no barrier will contain (as the article says), rather than Gulf storm surge.

Coastal flooding is a regional issue, and the only reason for Federal funding to be involved is because the federal government has a unique capability to spend money that it doesn't actually have by borrowing money at artificially low interest rates. We'll have to walk-back the precedents set by other floods, storms, and fires to reduce expectations that federal support can make it all better.

BTW: When I followed the link to the story in WIRED magazine, I got dark, distracting ads for some new streaming video program titled, simply, "EVIL". I've never associated WIRED with EVIL before, but now I guess I might.

I grew up in Delaware, home of Rehoboth, the nation's summer capital. It didn't use to be that. What used to happen, before flood insurance for seaside towns was that only two groups of people actually lived on the ocean side of the dunes.

Rich people who self-insured.
Dirt poor fishermen who rebuilt their shacks.

You did not see these humungous cities (like Ocean City MD) built practically right on the high tide mark. Cities and towns were built inland, inside bays, where they'd be safe from hurricanes.

Part of this is also technology. You can't rebuild beaches with new sand if you can't dredge it up from the ocean floor with giant Hoover vacuum cleaners.

Beaches move. Hurricanes come. Ocean City, MD, a city I've visited several times is amazing. It also routinely floods in the lowest levels whenever there are heavy rains because there is no place for the rainwater to go.

You can see the Delaware/Maryland state line. Fenwick Island, the farthest south Delaware beach town is building up, but it's still mostly three-story beach mansions with ten bedrooms. They're built for rentals to groups.
Maryland is zoned differently so you know the minute you cross the state line. In O.C., the 30-story condos start within a few hundred feet of the Delaware border.

Delaware also spends a lot more effort on beach erosion plantings than Maryland does from what I saw. Beach erosion plantings divide the shoreline into three zones: oceanside sand, 100 feet or more of dunes fenced off and heavily planted with grasses, housing. The dunes are fenced off on both sides with narrow access routes, also fenced off, because if you don't fence, the tide of humanity will trample the dunes back into concrete.