Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Alternate Approaches to Coastal Hazard Mitigation


Alternate Approaches to Coastal Hazard Mitigation

After Super Storm Sandy devastated the New Jersey coast and flooded coastal New York, including parts of Manhattan, the debate about rebuilding in place or implementing more sustainable coastal hazard mitigation practices has raged in the U.S.

The traditional practices in the U.S. and in other countries around the world have been to armor the shorelines and replenish beaches to prevent or mitigate erosion. Here in the U.S., recovery from flooding has relied on programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and others, to allow home and business owners to rebuild.

Around the world, there is a growing recognition that hard structure protection and rebuilding in place are not sustainable practices, especially as we become increasingly aware that storms of Sandy and Katrina magnitude may be occurring more frequently with our changing climate. Greater emphasis is now being placed on coastal communities developing better resilience to repeated coastal flood events and sea level rise.

Following the devastation of Sandy in the northeast, some geologists weighed in on the debate to advocate alternatives to rebuilding, such as managed retreat. Here, we will take a look at some ideas from one leading group of coastal scientists, led by Orrin Pilkey, who has spent his career thinking and writing about how to live with dynamic shorelines. Here, he is vocal in making the call that there needs to be a change in policy in the U.S. when it comes to trying to combat catastrophic flooding along our coasts. The case study focusing on rebuilding after Sandy on the Jersey Shore in the reading "Rebuild or Retreat from the Jersey Shore", in which a piece from WNYC follows homeowners debating on the future of their community after Sandy, highlights once more the dichotomy of opinions about the need to retreat from the shoreline versus the need to maintain a lucrative tourism and vacation home economy by holding things in place, at least for now.

Required Readings

Read the following two articles in which Orrin H. Pilkey, emeritus professor of earth sciences at Duke University, explains the rationale behind moving away from the “madness” of rebuilding in places that have proven to have high rates of repetitive impacts of coastal hazards such as hurricane storm surges. In the second piece, other opinions are voiced in relation to the dilemma on the Jersey Shore. As you consider the range of opinions, make a list of key points, and use these to answer the Learning Check Point questions below to reflect on the ideas put forth and develop your own ideas about the need to change the way things are done on built shorelines in the U.S.

After reading both articles, please complete the Learning Check Point below before moving onto the next section.

Learning Check Point

While this Learning Check Point is not for credit, you will be expected to know the material for the Module 9 Quiz.

Please take a few minutes and answer the questions below.