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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. Which begs the question — how do we protect ourselves from the increased risk of storm surge along our coasts? The Washington Post’s Climate Solutions columnist Sara Kaplan wrote a great piece on why sea walls are not the best answer to our growing challenge from rising seas and increasingly severe storms. Not to mention causing erosion to beaches that everyone loves.
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. There are really only two good options as Kaplan explains. We can either move to higher ground. Or we can heed the environmental experts and coastal researchers who “say natural solutions are the way to go — after all, they’ve been working for the planet longer than humans have been alive.”
Isaias Barreled Up The East Coast
Hurricane Isaias was a doozy — it spawned more than a dozen tornadoes have been reported in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. The local NYC power company Con Edison said it was the most power outages since Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of the region – a building in Brooklyn collapsed due to the storm. The wind was a big problem — The Weather Channel reported “Frequent gusts from 60 to 70 mph were clocked along the Jersey Shore, New York City and Long Island, including a 78 mph gust at New York’s Battery Park and in Farmingdale. Manteo, North Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia, Salisbury, Maryland, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, all clocked wind gusts over 60 mph. The National Hurricane Center reports that a wind gust to 94 mph was measured at a weather station at York River East, Virginia.”
Hard Barriers Cause Problems
Kaplan describes the ways in which sea walls and rock jetties transform the areas they are intended to protect — and not in good ways. Walls and other “hard” structures cause beach erosion, and degrade coastal habitats that provide natural protection — salt marshes, seagrass meadows, rolling expanses of sand dunes — from the energy of tides and storm surge. Similarly, the “dense, anchored root systems of mangrove forests help dissipate storm energy, prevent erosion and filter water as it drains from the land into the sea” and oyster beds “provide a natural breakwater in front of coastal communities.” Kaplan cites a “2014 study of salt marshes — where hardy grasses grow in spongy peat that gets flooded by the tides — found that they are more durable and better at preventing erosion than human-built bulkheads.”
Today marks the 4th birthday of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument which was created by President Obama in 2016. The monument is the first fully protected marine area in the US Atlantic Ocean and is special because it home to precious marine ecosystems and species like fragile deep-sea corals, diverse schools of fish […]
by Dr. Gareth Lawson The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument holds a special place in my heart. This monument, designated by President Obama four years ago this week, protects crucial marine habitats for incredible species, from whales to corals, along the edge of the New England continental shelf. Unfortunately, this monument is currently […]
The New York Times reported late last week that federal prosecutors are pressing charges against a ring of a dozen people and two businesses on opposite coasts for running a multimillion-dollar organization involved in international money laundering, drug trafficking, and illegal wildlife trade in shark fins.
Why This Matters: As the World Wildlife Fund reports, around 100 million sharks may be killed annually for their fins and many are sold on the black market. Illegal wildlife trafficking is growing because international criminal networks are able to exploit weaknesses and gaps in international law enforcement.
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