The Blog Aquatic » new york News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sandy Relief Left Stranded by the House of Representatives Wed, 02 Jan 2013 19:40:20 +0000 Jeff Watters

New York Air National Guard responds to Hurricane Sandy. From the DVIDSHUB Flickr stream, used under a Creative Commons license.

UPDATE (01/03): After facing intense pressure, Boehner has agreed to schedule a vote for Sandy aid. Read more here.

These days nothing gets through Congress easily, even when the need is so great. We can expect some in Congress to resist releasing funds to rebuild the East Coast stronger than before, but they should be reminded that protecting our communities is the core function of our government.  Now is the chance to use our resources in ways that will allow us to grow and thrive for generations to come.

This is how I ended a blog post written nearly three weeks ago analyzing a Senate bill that would funnel $60 billion in relief to the states affected by Superstorm Sandy. This was legislation that would provide funding for coastal restoration and other activities to prevent and mitigate damage from future storms like Sandy.

The bill would provide funding for things like:

  • Hydrographic surveys and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) imaging to remap our shorelines and identify risks and coastal vulnerabilities
  • Coordinated planning and strategy at the community, state, and regional level that shares best practices and determine the best mix of “grey” (i.e. sea walls) and “natural” (i.e. wetlands) infrastructure so that rebuilding efforts also better prepare communities for future challenges
  • Habitat restoration and coastal land conservation to support healthy ecosystems while also providing buffers and protect communities from future extreme weather.

As I noted then, funding storm mitigation is a good investment, as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded research has shown that each $1 invested in mitigation provides the nation $4 in future benefits.

While the Senate was able to pass the Sandy relief bill, even while embroiled in negotiations over the fiscal cliff, the House failed to even take up the measure before the close of this Congress, despite assurances from leadership that it would consider the bill.

Because this failure comes at the end of the current Congress, lawmakers won’t simply be able to pick up where they left off and finish the bill. No, a new Congress means new members, which means new bills must be drafted, and a new round of delays for the victims of Hurricane Sandy will be incurred.

This failure in the House of Representatives has rightly incensed the congressional delegations from New York and New Jersey and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R). So much so, that Rep. Peter King, R-NY, has called on New York and New Jersey donors to withhold donations to House Republicans – King’s own party – until the Sandy bill is passed.

For our part, pushing this vital legislation will be at the top of Ocean Conservancy’s legislative priorities as we welcome the 113th Congress.

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Cleanup Volunteers Join a Wave of Action to Support Sandy Recovery Mon, 10 Dec 2012 20:52:02 +0000 Nick Mallos

A powerful reminder of what was lost during Sandy; no words necessary. Photo by Nick Mallos

Superstorm Sandy was an unpreventable and unavoidable natural disaster that left in her wake a trail of devastation both physical and emotional that will require not months, but likely years to repair. The total cost of Sandy’s destruction may exceed $50 billion. Beach Cleanups alone certainly will not repair the damage that was done by Sandy; in fact, it’s likely that it will barely scratch the surface. However, each of these small actions taken collectively has major implications for the recovery of New Jersey and New York shores.

So there we were—Ocean Conservancy—at a desolate Jones Beach State Park on Long Island, NY equipped to do what we’ve been doing for over 25 years—clean up the beach. The cleanup was just one of many going on throughout the day along devastated beaches in New York and New Jersey as part of an effort called “Waves of Action,” which aims to help with coastal recovery efforts. Conditions were less than ideal:  cloudy with light drizzle, 45 degrees, and an ocean breeze that had it feeling much colder We were nervous—would our list of attendees brave the weather and make it out? But just as volunteers do each September during the International Coastal Cleanup, on this chilly December morning more than 70 volunteers—most of whom were Long Island residents—put aside their Christmas shopping to lend a hand for a beach and community they love. In fact, many New Yorkers changed their plans that morning as they heard of the event via WCBS 880’s live radio coverage from Jones Beach.

Together, volunteers scoured the sand and dunes for three hours removing a total of 2,000 pounds of debris scattered over 420,000 square meters of beach. Much of the debris found was entangled in dune grasses or deposited along a soundside wrackline created by Sandy’s receding waters. The windswept beach was mostly barren with the exception of a few items synonymous with summertime:  boat docking, a soft pretzel stand’s signage, a Sirius XM radio and thousands of plastic straws and stirrers that stuck out of the sand like sprouting dune grass. At the base of the dunes, thousands of plastic bottle caps and tampon applicators created a disheartening plastic puzzle and in all directions plastic bags snagged on dune grass or shrubs flapped in the wind. The exact source of these items will never be known, but the proximity of New York Harbor and an up-beach sewer outfall suggests much of the debris was compliments of the Big Apple; yet another reminder that the ocean is always downstream.

Sandy was unpreventable. But we can and should learn from storms like Sandy as well as Hurricane Katrina and last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The threat of natural disasters is not new and we must critically examine our daily activities that make us more susceptible to damage inflicted by these events. This ranges from beachfront development to restoring our natural defenses like oyster reefs and dunes to reevaluating our daily consumption of one-time use disposable plastics.

The ocean is incredible. But we continue to take too much out while concurrently putting too much in. Its limits are not infinite and it’s time we give the big blue a little help to make certain the ocean retains its resiliency in the face of a future Katrina, Sandy, or the next vixen who remains TBD.

In addition to the inspiring efforts of the volunteers and Jones Beach Park Service, Ocean Conservancy would like to thank the sponsors of the cleanup, LandShark Lager and Altria, who stepped in on short notice to help provide funding for the event.

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In the Wake of Sandy, Thinking About the Future Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:49:51 +0000 Janis Searles Jones

Credit: AP Photos / Alex Brandon

Like many of you, many of Ocean Conservancy’s staff have lived through hurricanes and other natural disasters. We know how much damage hurricanes can cause, and our hearts go out to those of you affected by Hurricane Sandy.

For our staff working along the Gulf of Mexico, June through November is a time to remember how to “live with the water,” as Bethany Kraft, our director of Gulf Restoration put it at the start of this year’s hurricane season. When Hurricane Isaac hit last month, Gulf residents experienced hard winds, massive flooding and oiled shorelines that reminded us that we are still in the grips of responding to and recovering from the BP oil disaster.

Hurricane Sandy, which pounded the East Coast on Monday, was a wholly different storm. Our immediate concerns are always with those in the path of such devastating storms, especially those on the New Jersey coast and New York where the damage was especially acute. We send our gratitude to NOAA for the warnings and the time to prepare and to the first responders, who are not only saving lives but are leading communities’ recovery efforts.

As we shift from rescue to recovery, we are confronting a cleanup and rebuilding effort with an extraordinary price tag and an unforeseeable timeline. And while we can’t control such a massive storm, we can help strengthen our nation’s best defense against this force of nature.

Coastal and marine habitats such as barrier islands, beaches, oyster reefs and sea-grass beds can help buffer shorelines and protect coastal communities from wind and rising water. But when these natural sentries are weakened by climate change, development, pollution, overfishing and other human impacts, our communities are at even greater risk when disaster approaches.

With this in mind, we must ask:

  • How can we step in to help coastal areas affected by the storm?
  • What can we do to ensure that our coastal areas are ready and resilient, so they can better handle extreme weather events?

While any one storm — particularly one this complex — can’t be solely blamed on climate change, we know we can expect a greater frequency of stronger storms like this one. In addition to addressing climate change, we need to increase funding for restoration of our coastlines’ natural defenses.

In the Gulf of Mexico, we already know that restored wetlands and oyster beds can help sap the energy of an incoming hurricane and protect the shoreline from storm surge.

As Paul Greenberg, author of “Four Fish,” notes in The New York Times this week, oyster beds “once protected New Yorkers from storm surges, a bivalve population that numbered in the trillions and that played a critical role in stabilizing the shoreline from Washington to Boston.” While a small recovery of that population is underway, it could not have protected New Yorkers from the incredible strength of Sandy.

Going forward, we must focus attention on solutions for better protection of our increasingly vulnerable coastlines, from ongoing research and monitoring to smart, integrated planning in the coastal zone.

For now, our thoughts are with those recovering from Sandy, but as restoration gets underway in the coming weeks and months, Ocean Conservancy will be a leading voice in the call for comprehensive planning efforts to shore up our natural defenses before the next storm.

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News Roundup: What Can We Learn From Hurricane Sandy? Tue, 30 Oct 2012 19:04:25 +0000 Guest Blogger

Hurricane Sandy as viewed on October 29, Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by Sandy this morning, especially those on the New Jersey coast and New York where the damage was particularly acute.

Sandy, which packed 90 mile-per-hour winds and dumped 12 inches of rain and snow across states ranging from New Jersey to Kentucky, was declared to be something other than a hurricane. It was, forecasters said, a post-tropical storm that combined with other weather systems to stretch 1,000 miles wide and create storm surges up to 11 feet.

As we catch up on our work and get back up to speed, here are some takes on Sandy from around the web that we’re finding particularly insightful. If you have stories to share, please leave them in the comments below:

An Oyster in the Storm, The New York Times. As the storm came ashore yesterday in New Jersey, Four Fish author Paul Greenberg reminded us that nature can be a strong defense against major storms. Oysters, he says, “once protected New Yorkers from storm surges, a bivalve population that numbered in the trillions and that played a critical role in stabilizing the shoreline from Washington to Boston.”

Superstorm Sandy, by the Numbers, From the number of states affected to the total snowfall, NBC News provides a “by the numbers” look at this historic storm. FEMA’s estimates for potential wind damage caused by the storm: $2.5-$3 billion. And that’s without accounting for the massive flooding experienced in New Jersey and New York.

Assessing the Damage from Hurricane Sandy, The New York Times. The Times has a series of interactive graphics, photos and social media updated chronicling the magnitude of the storms effects, from power failures, to wind damage, to massive flooding.

Hurricane Hunters, NOAA Ocean Today. NOAA has a video profile of its “hurricane hunters” who fly into hurricanes to collect data on the storms. While satellites can track their movement, meteorologists and researchers need to sample hurricanes directly to get the most accurate information about them.

Slow Moving Hurricanes Such as Sandy on the Rise, New ScientistNew Scientist chronicles how and why slow moving, damaging storms like Sandy may be the new normal. The combination of warming seas, rising sea levels and our penchant for building cities along our coasts means we’re likely to see more damage from storms like this in the future.

Sandy, Unspent, Moves Toward Great Lakes, The Christian Science Monitor. Sandy moved over Western Pennsylvania today and headed to the Great Lakes, where it is expected to dump at least a foot of rain and create swells on Lakes Michigan and Huron that could reach 35 feet.

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