Task force: Coasts should prepare for rising seas

Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, a view from the air shows the destroyed homes left in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J. New Jersey got the brunt of Sandy, which made landfall in the state and killed six people. A presidential task force charged with developing a strategy for rebuilding coastal areas damaged by Sandy will issue a report on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, recommending 69 measures that might help insure that coastal areas aren’t as vulnerable to future storms in an age of rising sea levels. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)
.

View gallery

NEW YORK (AP) — Coastal communities should assume floods are going to happen more frequently and realize that spending now on protective measures could save money later, according to a report issued by a presidential task force charged with developing a strategy for rebuilding areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

Most of the report's 69 recommendations focus on a simple warning: plan for future storms in an age of climate change and rising sea levels. It calls for development of a more advanced electrical grid and the creation of better planning tools and standards for storm-damaged communities.

"If we built smart, if we build resilience into communities, then we can live along the coast. We can do it in a way that saves lives and protects taxpayer investments," said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, who discussed the report Monday with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Donovan was appointed chairman of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force by President Barack Obama.

Some of the group's key recommendations are already being implemented, including the creation of new flood-protection standards for major infrastructure projects built with federal money and the promotion of a sea-level modeling tool that will help builders and engineers predict where flooding might occur in the future. It strongly opposes simply rebuilding structures as they were before they were devastated by October's historic storm.

The task force also endorsed an ongoing competition, called "Rebuild by Design," in which 10 teams of architects and engineers from around the world are exploring ways to address vulnerabilities in coastal areas.

"We're always going to have people, I think, want to live in areas that are problematic from an environmental point of view," Bloomberg said at Monday's news conference, which was held overlooking a Brooklyn water treatment plant that stayed online during the storm.

"We still want to leave it to you, the individual, to make your decisions, but the federal government has some economic incentives," he said, noting that rescue crews are needed to save flooded-out residents, "because if you do get in trouble, we're going to have to come to your aid anyway."

Earlier this year, Bloomberg unveiled a sweeping $20 billion proposal that would create floodwalls and marshes and stormproof vulnerable neighborhoods. It is not clear how much funding the city will receive to enact the changes.

The presidential task force report didn't delve deeply into what types of infrastructure might be best suited to protect the shoreline. It endorsed a greater use of natural barriers such as wetlands and sand dunes, but it said better tools were needed to help planners evaluate what works and to quantify the long-term benefits of those types of projects.

It said the government should find ways to encourage the private sector to develop fuel distribution and telecommunications systems that are less likely to be crippled by extended power outages. After Sandy, drivers in New York and New Jersey had problems finding gas stations that still had fuel because of a series of problems that rippled through the distribution system. Cellphone networks were snuffed out in some areas because of equipment that lacked adequate battery power, or other backup electrical supplies.

A large section of the report dealt with how federal authorities should respond once a storm has struck.

Among the recommendations:

— Federal agencies should streamline their review processes for reconstruction projects related to Sandy. It said that if standard government permitting timelines are applied, some rebuilding projects might have to undergo redundant reviews by multiple agencies and could be held up as long as four years. Some of those reviews will be consolidated to save time and money, the task force said.

— The Small Business Administration's disaster loan program, which gave $3.8 billion in low-interest loans to storm victims, performed better than it did during Hurricane Katrina but should be tweaked further.

— Federal mortgage policies should be revised so homeowners can get insurance checks faster.

On one vital issue related to insurance, the task force had no easy solution.

It noted that because of reforms to the financially distressed National Flood Insurance Program that began before the storm, many thousands of people who live in low-lying areas will likely see huge premium increases if they don't lift their homes up on pilings. The task force said that for many homeowners, both options are unaffordable. It recommended further study of that dilemma.

___

Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

View Comments (567)

Recommended for You

  • Hurricane-strength winds batter northern Europe, hit travel

    Hurricane-force winds lashed parts of northern Europe on Tuesday, causing a death in Germany, flights to be canceled, disrupting some road and train traffic and hitting port operations. The Dutch meteorological office issued a code red warning for the low-lying country's northern and coastal…

    Reuters
  • United States submits formal plan for Paris climate talks

    By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday formally submitted its climate change strategy to the United Nations, outlining domestic measures it is taking to achieve up to a 28 percent greenhouse gas emissions cut by 2025. The submission lays out how the United States…

    Reuters
  • Air and sea traffic disrupted as 120 km winds batter Netherlands

    Spring storms battered the Netherlands with gusts of up to 120 kilometers an hour on Tuesday, causing Amsterdam's Schiphol airport to cancel flights and the closure of two container terminals at the port of Rotterdam. Gale force winds sweeping in from the North Sea disrupted land and marine…

    Reuters
  • Heavy rains trigger flood fears in Kashmir; 17 dead

    By Fayaz Bukhari SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Heavy rains and a landslide in the Himalayan region of Kashmir killed 17 people, police said on Tuesday, as Indian authorities continued working to rescue stranded villagers, with unseasonal rains raising fears of flash floods in the mountainous north. …

    Reuters
  • Ocean warming suggests 50 percent chance of El Nino-Australia

    By Colin Packham SYDNEY (Reuters) - Recent warming of the Pacific Ocean may signal an El Nino weather event is forming, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday. Climate models indicate the central tropical Pacific Ocean is likely to continue to warm, with El Nino thresholds to be…

    Reuters
  • Vanuatu risks long-term food insecurity after monster cyclone: U.N.

    By Alisa Tang BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The monster cyclone that hit Vanuatu earlier this month wiped out more than 90 percent of the archipelago's crops, putting its people at risk of a secondary emergency and long-term food insecurity, the United Nations warned on Monday. Tropical…

    Reuters
  • Heavy rains trigger flood fears in Kashmir; six dead

    By Fayaz Bukhari SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - A landslide in the Himalayan region of Kashmir killed six people and left 10 missing, police said on Monday, as unseasonal rains swept India, damaging crops and raising fears of flash floods in the mountainous north. Hundreds of people fled their homes…

    Reuters
  • Harsh weather cripples fishing and tourism on Cameroon's coast

    By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame KRIBI, Cameroon (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - For over 15 years, Raoul Meno has been fishing the waters off the coastal town of Kribi in southern Cameroon. A bout of persistent heavy rains and surging tides this year has made fishing in Kribi increasingly difficult and…

    Reuters
  • Air Canada plane landed short, hit antennas in Halifax accident

    By Mark Blinch HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - An Air Canada plane that suffered heavy damage in an accident in the east coast city of Halifax on Sunday landed short of the runway and hit an antenna array, losing its landing gear, safety officials said. "They touched down 1,100 feet (335 meters)…

    Reuters
  • U.S. to submit plans to fight global warming; most others delay

    By Alister Doyle and Valerie Volcovici OSLO/WASHINGTON - The United States will submit plans for slowing global warming to the United Nations early this week but most governments will miss an informal March 31 deadline, complicating work on a global climate deal due in December. The U.S.…

    Reuters
  • Modi's popularity in rural India punctured by discontent, suicides

    By Mayank Bhardwaj VAIDI, India (Reuters) - Over a dozen debt-laden farmers have committed suicide in recent weeks in India, and discontent in many rural areas against government policies is turning into anger against Prime Minister Narendra Modi less than a year after he swept into office. …

    Reuters
  • Chile desert rains sign of climate change: chief weather scientist

    By Rosalba O'Brien SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The heavy rainfall that battered Chile's usually arid north this week happened because of climate change, a senior meteorologist said, as the region gradually returns to normal after rivers broke banks and villages were cut off. "For Chile, this particular…

    Reuters
  • Mexico unveils national strategy for Paris climate talks

    By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mexico on Friday said it will cap its greenhouse gas emissions by 2026, becoming one of the first countries to formally submit its national climate plan to the United Nations ahead of a climate summit in Paris in December. Mexico's Foreign and…

    Reuters
  • Fed must take account of global economy in U.S. outlook: Yellen

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve must take the global economy into account when judging the U.S. domestic outlook, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday, noting that a stronger dollar buoyed by weakness abroad may restrain U.S. exports Still, she added, U.S. consumer…

    Reuters
  • In reversal, crash-hit Lufthansa agrees to two-crew in cockpit rule

    Lufthansa said on Friday it would introduce new rules requiring two crew members in cockpits at all times, a swift reversal after its CEO said such a change was not needed despite the crash at its Germanwings subsidiary. The European Union said it would now advise all EU airlines to require two…

    Reuters
  • Sierra Leone capital 'eerily quiet' amid Ebola lockdown

    By Umaru Fofana FREETOWN (Reuters) - The capital of Sierra Leone was "eerily quiet" on Friday at the start of a three-day national lockdown aimed at accelerating the end of an Ebola epidemic in the worst affected country. Liberia has just one known case left and the three countries have set a…

    Reuters
  • Lufthansa to toughen up cockpit rules

    Lufthansa said it will introduce new rules requiring two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times after one of the pilots at its Germanwings unit crashed a plane in the French Alps. Prosecutors believe Andreas Lubitz, 27, locked himself alone in the cockpit of the Airbus A320 on Tuesday and…

    Reuters
  • Poland to charge two Russian officials over Kaczynski plane crash

    Poland said on Friday it would bring charges against two Russian air traffic controllers over a 2010 plane crash which killed then Polish president Lech Kaczynski, a move likely to damage bilateral relations already strained by the Ukraine crisis. Prosecutor Ireneusz Szelag from the District…

    Reuters
  • Drought, warm weather bring 'smog day' memories in California

    By Sharon Bernstein KINGS COUNTY, Calif. (Reuters) - The brown haze over California's San Joaquin Valley breadbasket on some winter days has been an unwelcome reminder of the bad old days, when pollution hung so thickly that people were warned to stay inside. Years of tight environmental rules…

    Reuters
  • India turns to 'satellite god' for crop mapping

    By Ratnajyoti Dutta NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Sher Singh, a farmer from India's desert state of Rajasthan, prays to Varuna, the Hindu god of water, for a bountiful harvest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to promote a "per drop, more crop" approach to farming to make better use of scarce water,…

    Reuters