By Magdalena Coastal and MarinE News Editor
On January 29, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, of 2013 (Public Law 113-2), to assist in the recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As part of the law, the Congress tasked the Corps to work with a variety of partners to conduct a comprehensive study of the coastal areas affected by Hurricane Sandy to evaluate flood risks and, that as part of the study, to identify areas warranting additional analysis and institutional and other barriers to providing protection. (Chapter 4 of Public Law 113-2).
The Comprehensive Study is designed to help local communities better understand changing flood risks associated with climate change and to provide tools to help those communities better prepare for future flood risks. It builds on lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy and attempts to bring to bear the latest scientific information available for state, local, and tribal planners. In addition to State, regional, and local governments, FEMA, NOAA, multiple DOI agencies and HUD were major contributors to this study. Many communities along the Northeast remain vulnerable to coastal flooding. The Comprehensive Study identified nine high-risk focus areas that warrant additional analysis. They are (in no particular order): 1) Rhode Island Coastline; 2) Connecticut Coastline; 3) New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries; 4) Nassau County Back Bays, New York; 5) New Jersey Back Bays; 6) Delaware Inland Bays and Delaware Bay Coast; 7) the City of Baltimore; 8) the District of Columbia; and the 9) the City of Norfolk.
The North Atlantic Comprehensive Study was a $19 million study to develop a risk reduction framework for the 31,200 miles of coastline within the North Atlantic Division affected by Hurricane Sandy
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released to the public a report detailing the results of a two-year study to address coastal storm and flood risk to vulnerable populations, property, ecosystems, and infrastructure in the North Atlantic region of the United States affected by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012. The North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study report includes a nine-step Coastal Storm Risk Management Framework that was developed to help all stakeholders, not solely the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, identify their risk of coastal flooding and evaluate the full range of strategies available to reduce those risks. The Framework can be customized to any size coastal watershed, is repeatable at state and local scales, and is transferable to other areas of the country.
Managing coastal storm risk is a shared responsibility by all levels of government and individual property owners. Not all strategies to reduce risks are engineered solutions. Communities should consider adopting a combination of strategies that emphasize wise use of the floodplain and include structural, non-structural, natural and nature-based features, and programmatic measures to manage risk. Improved land use planning, responsible evacuation planning, and strategic retreat are important and cost-effective actions that are proven to reduce coastal flood risks. But no matter what risk reduction strategies are taken, there will always be residual risk.