John Whitehead of env-econ.net posted this on his blog today:
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. …
The most awesome part of the plan is that the $12 billion is already there! And every taxpayer in the U.S. has contributed! Why am I exclaiming like Mark Trail!
This reminded me of some research on a similar topic – restoring barrier islands off the coast of Mississippi in order to protect the coast from storms – by some researchers in this department….
In this paper, we estimate the economic value of a project to restore barrier islands off the coast of Mississippi for the purpose of protecting the coast from storms. Our estimate, based on a population of MS of about 3 million people, is a little under $700 million.
It would be cool if someone (or team) estimated the value of the “Blue Dunes” project in New York to see if it exceeds the $12 billion cost of implementation. (Well, they say it will be “evaluated” but who knows what that means!)
By the way, in our paper, we propose a way of estimating the value of the project which increases the confidence we have in our estimate of that value (through a lower variance…for the statistics nerds out there).