Recent studies have revealed an alarming future scenario for many cities along the US East Coast.
This situation is also confirmed by the last report on the expected increase in tidal floods in 52 cities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, realized by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
According to the director of the non-profit Wetlands Watch, this summer there were four occasions on which the city had to basically shut down until the water had drained off the land.
These events increase the sense of urgency in coastal communities: citizens stress the importance to act now with concrete strategies rather than face the severe consequences later.
For instance, Norfolk, a city of 250,000, home to the US Navy’s second fleet and the world’s largest naval base, is working to keep the water at bay, elevating roads and building storm surge gates.
In this context, experts stress the urgency to establish effective measures and strategies, in order to guarantee that new developments are not built on flood-prone land, and that building plans leave enough open space and green infrastructure.
Additionally, the 2013 report by the Nature Climate Change identifying the cities at the greatest economic risk of flood losses, described that Miami was ranked second only to Guangzhou.
The city is built on porous limestone, allowing floodwater to seep into the ground and resurface inland.
The high tides earlier in October were a test for several newly installed storm pumps in Miami Beach with a capacity to pump 50,000 gallons of water per minute back into the bay.
Apart from some brief road flooding and some puddles around the drains, the trial run ended with a success.
Over the next five years, the authorities in Miami Beach have planned to spend US$300 million on about 60 pumps to upgrade the drainage infrastructure that was built more than half a century ago.
Moreover, a Sea Level Rise Task Force has recently urged the Miami-Dade county government to increase its investments in flood control. Experts have suggested to boost the efforts in the face of predictions that flood insurance losses in Southeast Florida could reach US$33 billion by 2030.
In relation to that, experts have also suggested to create an adaptation plan, in case, the region wants to safeguard its “insurability and financial support in the future”.
In this context, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, a partnership between several counties and non-profit organizations sharing resources and experience, represents a good model for coordinating the response to climate change at a local level, experts say.
Local participationalso plays a central role in order to achieve good results.
In addition to that, while the region around Miami can rely on many years of direct experience with rising sea levels, other regions are newer to the discussion. According to the UCS report, the US capital Washington D.C. has to expect up to 400 floods a year by 2045, becoming the city with the highest increase in tidal floods.
To address these issues, the city has hired a team of consultants to help protect private property, government buildings and cultural sites. Also, the Pentagon is working on its own assessment of the vulnerability of its facilities by flooding events, experts say.
Furthermore, the city of New York has planned to invest US$19.5 billion to reinforce its defences with a large network of sea walls and levees, similar to the system installed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, New York hopes to use federal relief funds received in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to pay its plan. On the other hand, New York has so far opposed suggestions from scientists and engineers to build a massive, eight kilometres long, and storm protection barrier across the New York Bay, similar to the longer structure off the coast of Saint Petersburg.
The gLAWcal Team
Monday, 3 November 2014