Thursday, June 13, 2013

While Miami-Dade elected officials dither, New York City knows there is no time to lose on sea level rise ... by gimleteye

New York City does not suffer the same bi-polar reaction to climate change as Miami, one of the most vulnerable cities in the world to sea level rise. Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a $20 billion plan this week to deal with this threat to coastal economies. The 430 page report outlines measures to protect the city with extensive hardening of waterfront defenses in the face of climate change.

What is Miami doing along similar lines? Dithering. Dissembling. Lying.

Miami's porous, underlying geology makes sea walls, levees and bulkheads irrelevant. In other words, the water will seep right under shoreline defenses against sea level rise. But there is another step we could take: load up our underground aquifer with fresh water.

This is not only the best, it is the only defense long-term, and it is being undermined today by a series of county commission decisions: 1) an inadequate plan to fix the region's decayed wastewater infrastructure and 2) a plan to send 90 million gallons per day of treated wastewater to FPL to "cool" two planned nuclear reactors.

What is so alarming, is that the county at the same time professes its "concern" and willingness to work on planning with regional neighbors and the League of Cities.

By failing to incorporate current sea level rise models in its recent wastewater infrastructure plan, forced by environmentalists at the point of federal litigation, the county is committing billions of taxpayer dollars in ways that will lead to a major public emergency in the future. Perhaps elected officials are counting on being long gone and retired with claps on the back and accolades before that happens.

The FPL plan is more pernicious. The county commissioners ought to be fully supporting whatever can keep aquifer water levels high at the coast line. The 90 million gallons per day could be useful in protecting coastal communities but instead the water will be diverted to the FPL nuclear reactors. (Ratepayers -- you and me -- are currently funding that lunacy through our monthly electric bills.) If the nuclear reactors are built, FPL's needs for water will take first priority.

Voters are to blame for electing mayors and county commissioners whose main response, in respect to the environment, is to make building in wetlands and on shorelines, easier. That's the Florida way, for a while longer.

June 11, 2013
Bloomberg Outlines $20 Billion Storm-Protection Plan
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg outlined a far-reaching plan on Tuesday to protect New York City from the threat of rising sea levels and powerful storm surges by building an extensive network of flood walls, levees and bulkheads to guard much of the city’s 520 miles of coastline.

The cost of fortifying critical infrastructure like the power grid, retrofitting older buildings to withstand powerful storms, and defending the coastline was estimated to be $20 billion, according to a 430-page report outlining the proposals.

While Mr. Bloomberg conceded that many of the proposals would not even begin to take shape until after he left office, he said the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy made it necessary that work begin immediately.

“This plan is incredibly ambitious — and much of the work will extend far beyond the next 203 days — but we refused to pass the responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration,” he said during a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “This is urgent work, and it must begin now.”

In all, the report outlines 250 specific recommendations, including the adoption of adaptable flood walls and other measures to protect some of the worst-hit areas during Hurricane Sandy.

The plan covers so many different parts of the city and calls for such a wide array of proposals that the estimated price tag could change – and most likely grow, given the history of large infrastructure projects.

But the administration said that roughly half of the currently estimated $20 billion cost would be covered by both federal and city funds that are already allocated and that an additional $5 billion would be covered by expected aid that Congress has already appropriated. The plan outlines ways to raise the additional billions that would be required for the plan to become a reality.

In the first phase, the report calls for building barriers in Hunts Point in the Bronx to protect the food distribution center; on the East Harlem Waterfront along the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive; at Hospital Row north of East 23rd Street in Manhattan; the Lower East Side; Chinatown; the financial district; and in Red Hook in Brooklyn.

On Staten Island, the plan calls for a system of permanent levees.

Along some parts of the coastline, stone or concrete bulkheads would be installed, while in other places dune systems would be built.

The proposals outlined in the report were prepared by a group the Bloomberg administration assembled after Hurricane Sandy, and some proposals required further study, including the construction of a “Seaport City.”

That would require installing a multipurpose levee with raised edge elevations and would “protect much of the East River shoreline south of the Brooklyn Bridge from inundation and create a new area for both residential and commercial development,” according to a summary released by the mayor’s office.

The city’s power infrastructure also needs to be better protected.

Currently, 53 percent of the city’s power plants are in the 100-year floodplain. By the 2050s, 90 percent of the stations will be, according to the report.

Much of the worst damage during Hurricane Sandy occurred in buildings built before 1961, according to the report. The plan calls for $1.2 billion to be made available to building owners to complete flood resiliency measures, including raising critical equipment, upgrading foundations and reinforcing exterior walls.

The plan also calls for the city’s hospitals to meet a higher standard, meeting elevation guidelines for a “500-year storm” instead of the “100-year storm,” as is currently required.

Hospitals will be required to better protect electrical equipment, emergency power systems and water pumps by 2030.

Years before Hurricane Sandy, the Bloomberg administration commissioned a panel to study the threat posed by a changing climate, rising oceans and more powerful storms, and to propose plans to mitigate the risks.

The panel is part of the city’s broader sustainability campaign known as PlaNYC. Much of what is called for in that plan is meant to have an impact over the course of many years. For instance, one of its key goals is to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The city is halfway there, with emissions cut by 16 percent, according to city officials.

However, after Hurricane Irene forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents living along the city’s waterfront in 2011, there were renewed questions about whether long-term goals were enough or whether more urgent action was needed – especially as more and more people were settling along the city’s shoreline.

During the Bloomberg administration, much of the city’s waterfront has been revitalized, with hundreds of millions of dollars of public money spent to improve parks, build esplanades and create the infrastructure necessary for residential development.

Developers have rushed to put up pricey rental and condominium towers from Battery Park City to Long Island City, transforming warehouse and wharf districts.

But as the administration’s own waterfront development plan – Vision 2020 – warned, the development came with risks.

By 2050, sea levels could be 12 to 29 inches higher, according to the plan. By 2080, they could be some 55 inches higher. Those estimates have been revised upward by several inches since that report was released.

While the city was spared a direct hit by Hurricane Irene, experts knew how close the storm had come to doing terrible damage. If the storm surge been only 12 inches higher, city subways and thousands of homes would have been flooded, and transportation in the region could have ground to a halt.

One year later, Hurricane Sandy fulfilled even the most dire predictions.

It was no longer necessary to speculate about the impact of climate change, Mr. Bloomberg said at the time.

“Our climate is changing,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote days after the storm. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be – given this week’s devastation – should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

As opposed to earlier plans, Mr. Bloomberg outlined a series of proposals on Tuesday that would have an immediate protective effect — even if the cost might seem high.

“No matter how far we’ve come,” he said, “we face real, immediate threats.”


Anonymous said...

MIA couldn't plan its way out of a paper bag unless the bag was filled with campaign cash.

Anonymous said...

There is a tremendous divide in intellect and competence between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Bloomberg is a brilliant, world-class leader with an all-encompassing vision and uncommon political courage.

They simply are not in the same league.