Times of peace, prosperity and relative calm are often followed by crises predicted by nobody. The recession of the last decade was declared unforeseen; even though analysis after the fact proved that there were indications galore that the housing market was doomed. The same goes for Hurricane Sandy. Even though the storms of previous seasons-Irene, Hanna and Ernesto-knocked out power throughout New York and New Jersey and caused some flood damage, there was no significant outcry for storm damage prevention. Even the subway system, which was proven to have been vulnerable to major damage before tropical storm Irene, was left in the same condition. Now that the full extent of the storm damage is known, officials can begin the task of preparing for the next environmental calamity.
The devastation of Hurricane Sandy caused a flurry of proclamations, initiatives, proposals and ideas about how the coast can better prepare for massively destructive storms. In the interest of protecting the State of New York from future environmental catastrophes, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently appointed a commission whose duties are to discover the best ways to prepare New York for the next super storm.
The commission issued a 175-page report outlining all of the measures that could potentially save the state from further damage from future storms. Among the suggestions was the proposal to build storm barriers that span the length of the Narrows (the strait that separates Brooklyn from Staten Island), the design to construct what is called a “soft infrastructure”-a series of oyster reefs and dunes, which ostensibly give the shoreline natural stability over time by filtering the water and encouraging the growth of marsh grasses, which prevent storm surges from destroying the shoreline. Many of the proposed projects are already in development, such as new railway connections.
Even though the report is sprawling, many elected officials believe that it doesn’t provide specific details about the plans, and there are no cost estimates. The document is, however, rich in ideas. Unfortunately, if the states do not receive the appropriate funding from the federal government, it may all be for naught.
Congress recently passed a $9.7 billion aid bill in order to pay for the insurance claims filed after Hurricane Sandy, but the remaining $50 billion in aid will be voted upon during the January 15th session. As it stands now, the state governments are unsure as to the specific amounts that will be allocated to them for the purpose of rebuilding and strengthening the infrastructure.
We can only hope that the measures enacted by the New York committee and the United States Congress prove to be effective in remediating the damage of the “Super Storm,” while providing some amount of security against damage from future natural disasters.