Feds Propose to Spend Billions to Build Walls To Shore Up Miami From Sea Level Rise

Just as Tropical Storm Cristobal prepared to make landfall in Louisiana, the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) released a plan on Saturday to spend nearly $5B to build miles of sea walls around parts of Miami that are vulnerable to storm surge and sea-level rise, local media there reported.  The plan reportedly calls for “moveable barriers” at the mouths of three waterways, elevating and floodproofing in large areas of the city, and restoring mangroves, but does not include moving residents to create more open space for floodwaters.  Sea-level rise could be as high as 13 feet in Miami.

Why This Matters:  Similar studies by the Army Corps are going on all over the country — New York City, Norfolk, Virginia, and in the Florida Keys.  The feds abruptly pulled in February the COE’s plans for a sea wall for New York City without comment. New tools are being developed that take into consideration more than just engineering and flood vulnerability per se, but that also look at issues of economic and social justice, such as poverty and inequality, outdated infrastructure, poor governance, and discrimination. There are likely cheaper and more effective approaches because anyone who has ever dealt with flooding knows that water always wins.

CORVI 

For example, a consortium of NGOs, philanthropy, and insurers led by the Stimson Center has just launched a tool called CORVI (Climate and Ocean Risk Vulnerability Index) that analyzes a city based on a ranking of risks that is designed to support smart future investment in climate resilience. It is a tool for decision-makers to identify and categorize risk across sectors and aid in the design of integrated policy solutions to build climate-resilient cities. If they don’t look at the range of social, economic, and environmental factors together, the solutions could make the overall problems worse with devastating consequences for the security of city residents, states, and the U.S.

COE

The Corps has spent $3M on the study in Miami, and it took 3 years to complete.  But Boston has been facing the exact same issues and rather than building mechanical barriers and high walls, they are looking at more natural approaches.  In fact, the Sustainable Solutions Lab at the University of Massachusetts analyzed the feasibility of installing a pair of barriers across Boston Harbor similar to what the COE proposes and found that it is expensive and would not actually function well.  They estimated that to construct a permanent storm barrier would be cost up to $20B and require intensive maintenance and it would impede the natural flow of water needed to maintain water quality.

To Go Deeper: The public is invited to learn more about the study and its findings at the identical virtual sessions, scheduled for 5-7 p.m. June 9 and 1-3 p.m. June 11. USACE staff will be available to answer questions.  You can register for them here.

What You Can Do: Provide comments to the COE on their Miami Dade Plan by clicking here.

Up Next

Sea Walls Are No Match For Severe Storms Made Worse By Climate Change

Sea Walls Are No Match For Severe Storms Made Worse By Climate Change

Hurricane Isaias, while only a category 1 (low strength) storm, caused great damage along the coast of the Carolinas and inland up the I-95 corridor, with several people killed, leaving nearly 3 million people without power, and causing widespread flooding necessitating water rescues up the Eastern seaboard all the way from Myrtle Beach, SC to Philadelphia, CNN reported last night

Why This Matters:  Sea level rise and coastal flooding are some of today’s toughest climate challenges.  While the gut instinct may be to “build that wall,” in the case of the ocean, walls and other “hardened” structures only make matters worse.

Continue Reading 525 words
China Fishing Illegally in North Korean Waters According to New Investigation

China Fishing Illegally in North Korean Waters According to New Investigation

Using satellite monitoring technology and intelligence capabilities, an investigation by NBC News and Ian Urbina an author and former NY Times journalist, has uncovered massive fishing by a “dark” fleet in North Korean waters with deadly results for North Korean fishermen.

Why This Matters:  China is a member of the UN Security Council that in 2017 banned fishing in North Korean waters (which China used to pay to access) as part of sanctions it imposed after North Korea’s nuclear missile tests.  If it’s true (and the UN has an anonymous report corroborating China’s violations with evidence to back it up) it would be a serious breach of the UN’s security rules

Continue Reading 552 words

Interview of the Week, Eric Schwaab, SVP, Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund

We have excerpted portions of his interview below.  Thank you, Eric, for speaking with ODP! ODP:  There have been many studies documenting the impact that climate change is having on fish stocks.  Is EDF seeing this actually play out in its fisheries work here in the U.S. and worldwide? ES: Yes. Ten years ago we […]

Continue Reading 396 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.