After Sandy, A Building Debate At The Shore
|By James Osborne, The Philadelphia Inquirer|
As the islands were developed into resorts, particularly in the last 50 years, houses and roads were built atop the former dunes. Man-made seawalls were constructed to protect development.
In the weeks since Sandy wreaked nearly
"We need to look at these islands geologically. Some islands you have to move back from; some you might not have to immediately," said
While such arguments have been made in scientific circles for more than a decade, only now are they entering the political arena.
While proclaiming that the
In an interview last week,
"The governor understands this," said Sweeney. "Just to put a house back on blocks when you know you're getting flooded, none of that makes sense anymore. The New Jersey I'm living in today is not the New Jersey I grew up with. The storms are stronger and more frequent, and we need to adapt."
A more controversial option would be for the federal government to buy property in flood-prone areas to prevent development there at all.
Since 1989, the
The government-purchase option should be made available to those who want it, Sweeney said.
At issue is the cost of rebuilding properties flood after flood.
"The projections are the ocean will rise another two to three feet over the next century. And it's going to make it tougher and tougher to protect anything you rebuild," said
"You have to look at this from an economic standpoint. Don't just blindly rebuild in places where you were destroyed," he said.
Towns are already in a dash to restore their beachfronts before
"I don't think
Buying out homeowners is a good option in some areas, such as along the
"The dunes that were rebuilt by the
Compounding the dilemma is the attachment many in the
"When you're a Shore person, a beach person, that's it, it's in you," he said. "Sandy was a 100-year storm. It was once in a lifetime . . . we hope."
Pilkey, 78, has listened to such wishful thinking for most of his career. From time to time, he said, governments and agencies have listened to his warnings.
He recounted how
Both programs were abandoned, he said, in the case of the latter due to strong homeowner opposition.
This time, he said, things feel slightly different.
"We're not talking about replacing everything right the way it was, which is the usual response," Pilkey said. "But my feeling is they're probably going to go back to where they were. . . . It might take a few more storms to turn them around."
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