President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talk with citizens who are recovering from Hurricane Sandy, while surveying storm damage in Brigantine, N.J., Oct. 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The Senate is considering, as early as today, the bill to fund emergency relief related to Super Storm Sandy and other recent disasters. The good news is that this could give the East Coast a chance to do more than just rebuild homes and communities — it can leave a lasting legacy that makes communities more resilient to future disasters, ensuring that the next storm less harmful and less costly.
The pattern is clear. In coastal areas that had natural or enhanced buffer habitats, communities were protected and lives and property were spared. Planning and mitigation worked. And in areas that lacked mitigation planning and protective natural buffer zones, communities suffered more.
In the Arverne by the Sea development – a 1,000 family New York development lying in the heart of the storm’s evacuation zone and right on the Atlantic coast – natural buffers of sandy beach, dunes and grasses (combined with smart planning such as underground utilities and a sophisticated drainage system) helped the community emerge from Sandy with considerably less damage than neighborhoods just a few blocks to the west that lacked the beach habitat buffer and were much more significantly impacted.
I live in a world where time is marked by the storms that alter the face of the landscape and change people’s lives: Betsy, Camille, Frederick, Opal, Ivan, Katrina, Isaac. Hurricanes are a fact of life in the Gulf, and I feel confident in saying that folks on the Gulf Coast are sending their thoughts and prayers to those most severely affected by Hurricane Sandy because we understand the extent of the work and time it will take to recover. We will nod our heads in understanding when you start a sentence five years from now with “Before Hurricane Sandy” because that’s how we speak, too.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there was a lot of talk about the city of New Orleans and its vulnerability to hurricanes and flooding. Some people even said that the city shouldn’t be rebuilt, that it would be a waste of resources to build back in a place hanging on by a fingernail to the last fringes of marsh that are losing ground every day to a hungry and unforgiving sea.
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.
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.
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:
Yesterday I wrote about Hurricane Isaac’s impacts to our coastal environment as well as the unfortunate reminder that an unknown quantity of BP oil still lingers in the Gulf, needing only time and the right conditions to once again wreak havoc on our beaches, marshes and coastal communities.
Events like hurricanes serve as sobering reminders of how critical coastal restoration initiatives are to the long-term sustainability of our Gulf communities, our economies and, of course, our natural resources. But as critical as restoration of our coastal resources are, they are only part of a larger picture of ecosystem restoration in the region. Restoration of our marine resources are equally important to preserving our coastal way of life.
Ocean Conservancy views restoration of the Gulf ecosystem as a three-legged stool. Each leg depends on the other for balance and function. If you lose one leg, you no longer have a strong base, and you will almost certainly topple. The three legs of restoration in the Gulf are: restoration of the coastal environment, the marine environment and coastal communities.
We must focus our effort, energy and funding resources to all three of these vital areas if we are going to realize our vision of a vibrant and healthy Gulf region. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Are there competing needs for limited funds? Yes? Do we have to find a way to do all three? Absolutely. Continue reading »
After a die-off, pink abalone populations inside of the Isla Natividad marine reserve in Mexico bounced back faster than abalone outside of the marine reserve. Credit: Channel Islands NMS
An exciting new study of pink abalone in Isla Natividad, Mexico sheds light on the ability of marine reserves to make the ocean more resilient to disasters.
Scientists from Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station teamed up with the Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad to study a patch of ocean that was hard hit by two large die-offs related to recent hypoxic events, periods of low dissolved oxygen in the water. They compared fished areas to nearby marine reserves, with startling results: Continue reading »
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster harmed communities from Texas to Florida and damaged the Gulf ecosystem from the ocean floor to the surface across a vast swath of waters and shoreline. Restoring these damaged resources will require a comprehensive, Gulf-wide restoration plan that covers coastal environments, blue-water resources and Gulf communities.
Because wildlife like birds, fish and marine mammals move throughout the ecosystem making use of coastal, nearshore and offshore environments, effective restoration requires a holistic approach. For example, restoration efforts for oyster reefs or barrier islands in Texas should complement the work done in Alabama or in Florida so that the full suite of species and habitats can recover.
The state and federal officials responsible for creating such a plan, the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees, are making decisions about how to spend the balance of the $1 billion committed by BP for early restoration. The decisions they make about early restoration and about the longer-term restoration program to follow have the potential to pay enormous dividends to the Gulf for generations.
To help the Trustees build an effective plan, a coalition of nonprofit groups, including Ocean Conservancy, has created a portfolio of 39 projects that reflect an integrated and Gulf-wide approach to restoration. Continue reading »