Today in WaterWise News:
Sea level rise, climate change, and stronger waves - More insight into the El Faro sinking - Checking in on the Rebuild by Design competition - Floods in LA - Asian carp continues to threaten Great Lakes - Spending the BP spill money - environmental studies and local concerns over radioactive waste - Working with or getting around federal regulations to nourish beaches and restore coasts - Dredging, dredging, everywhere - and, what to do about the estimated $175B in losses projected for next storm surge in FL, half of which is uninsured.
National Geographic - Climate change is modifying the way our oceans work in many different ways, including ocean acidification and water warming. But where people really start to pay attention is where humans and oceans meet: the coast. On the coast, most people have heard about sea level rise and assume that it is the major new problem affecting coastlines. This is because we have a great deal of tangible scientific evidence that sea levels have been rising, and we are able to project future changes with relative certainty. There have been some changes in coastal policies around sea level rise (SLR) but overall it is hard to garner action around SLR, because it is a creeping problem with some of its greatest impacts many decades away (i.e., many election cycles). There's another force out there that garners less attention yet has an even greater effect in shaping our coasts: waves. Its governs where we live and the coastal infrastructure we build. Read more.
New York Times - Just three months before the cargo ship El Faro sank off the coast of the Bahamas in the middle of a hurricane, killing all 33 people aboard, the Coast Guard issued a "no sail" order for its nearly identical sister ship, requiring it to stay at dock until its deteriorated lifeboat machinery was made safe, Coast Guard records show. The previously undisclosed safety deficiencies are significant, because the National Transportation Safety Board stressed that in its hunt for clues as to why the 790-foot ship sank this month, it would look first to the vessel's sister ship, El Yunque, which operated by the same company and passed El Faro at sea just before El Faro disappeared. Investigators with the N.T.S.B. boarded El Yunque - named for the Puerto Rican national forest - last week and spent several hours reviewing its records and interviewing the captain, the agency said. Read more.
Washington Post - It has been quite the week for climate change news: We've learned that scientists can now quantify the United States' expected levels of inundation by rising seas, that droughts in the Amazon could triple, and much more. But the most troubling research - depending, that is, on how you interpret it - may have appeared in a less-noticed, first-of-its-kind study just published in the influential Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In it, the researchers attempted something that seems never to have been successfully done before. Namely, they mined the data from a large suite of computerized climate change simulations, or models, to determine how often they produced abrupt and disruptive changes in a few decades or even less - surely the most feared impact of climate change. The result - that out of 37 abrupt changes detected in these climate simulations, fully 18 of them occurred at temperature levels less than 2 degree Celsius of warming - is simultaneously dramatic and yet also difficult to assess. Read more.
Architects Newspaper - When Hurricane Sandy brought catastrophic destruction to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut three years ago, government officials and designers seized the opportunity to shape space at an unprecedented scale through Rebuild by Design, a 2013 competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD, in collaboration with local partners, including the Municipal Art Society and The Van Alen Instituted, selected six teams (and one finalist) to create resiliency plans for seven coastal areas in three states. HUD allocated $930 million to implement the first phases of the plans. As of September 2015, each proposal was scaled (and renamed) to suit available funding. AN checked in on the six winning teams to learn where they are in the process of community engagement, design, and development. Read more.
New York Times - Flash flooding north of Los Angeles sent water and mud into canyons and across roadways Thursday, trapping drivers. The California Highway Patrol said 30 miles of Interstate 5 was blocked by flooding near Fort Tejon, about 75 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Drivers stuck in the mud waited for roads to be cleared while thousands more were diverted to alternate routes expected to take four or more hours to traverse through the mountain region in Southern California. Read more.
USA Today - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service again confirmed Thursday that small fish may be pulled along by barges going past electrical barriers reigniting concerns that young Asian carp could be transported into the Great Lakes despite the barriers intended to keep them from migrating north out of Chicago waterways. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains three electrical barriers along waterways south of Chicago intended to keep voracious Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. The Fish and Wildlife Service study bolsters earlier indications that smaller fish may be swept past the barriers as barges and other craft pass by. In 2013, the Corps and Fish and Wildlife reported initial finishing that "vessel-induced residual flows" could "trap fish and transport them beyond the electrical barriers." Read more.
The Times-Picayune - With $16.5 billion in BP oil spill money about to be funneled into dozens of environmental restoration projects in Louisiana and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, there's a danger that money will be lost or projects delayed by a lack of planning at the local, state and federal level, a coastal engineer a representative of a national environmental group said Thursday (Oct. 15). Cameron Perry, an engineer with HDR, an international engineering firm involved in Gulf coastal restoration efforts, warned that the roll-out of multiple projects in all five Gulf Coast states at once will both drive up construction prices and force delays in the availability of needed equipment. Read more.
The Daily News - A draft environmental study for the $643 million Longview coal terminal that had been due in November has been postponed until 2016, the state Department of Ecology announced Thursday. Coal terminal opponents welcomed the news, while supporters called it "deeply disappointing" and blamed the delay on politics. A schedule that Gov. Jay Inslee's office agreed to a year ago had Ecology and other lead agencies, along with a consultant, completing the study next month. Ecology only said Thursday morning that it and its partners are discussing a new completion date for the study. Later in the day it clarified that the EIS would be available "as early as possible in 2016." Read more.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - More than 40 years ago, radioactive waste was dumped at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. The decades since have been filled with legal and political moves that have not gotten the site cleaned up. Now a growing number of residents want to know how dangerous it is to live and work in the area as a fire burns underground in the adjoining Bridgeton Landfill. More than 500 people showed up at a Bridgeton church on Thursday for a meeting organized by residents. The monthly meetings held for last two years typically attract no more than 50. The surge in public interest comes after state reports showed the fire is moving toward the nuclear waste, and radioactive materials can be found in soil, groundwater and trees outside the perimeter of the landfill. Read more.
Greenwich Time - The Army Corps of Engineers is preparing its recommendations on how to handle material dredged from the Mianus River and other sites in Connecticut - as the fate of the project faces a major decision on whether Federal environmental regulators will authorize continued dumping in Long Island Sound. Meanwhile, opposition from New York state is mounting to the proposal to dump millions of tons of silt from Connecticut waterways into two pits in eastern Long island Sound. The fate of the badly clogged Mianus River channel hangs in the balance. "If they close them (the dump sites), the Mianus River is not going to get dredged," said Frank Mazza, the town Harbor Management Commission chairman. The Army Corps, which held a number of public hearings on the dredging plan, will prepare a final report that will be sent to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Read more.
Star News Online - Topsail Beach leaders hope to pool federal resources with local and state funds to use sand within a federally restricted area for future beach nourishment projects. The town board on Wednesday unanimously approved giving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $5,000 to review data about sand within a portion of a federally designated Coastal Barrier Resources, or CBRA, zone. The money, which will be pulled from the town's beach, inlet and sound maintenance fund, is being paired with $15,000 from the corps. The town-provided data will help the corps determine whether there is enough sand in the CBRA zone and if that sand consists of the right quality to be pumped onto the town's ocean shoreline. If the corps deems the sand quantity and quality sufficient, the agency may then ask the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to in the future be allowed to move sand pumped within that zone during channel dredging projects onto the town's ocean shoreline. Read more.
Times-Picayune - Thousands of pounds of sand from the Gulf of Mexico spewed from a pipe Wednesday (Oct. 14) onto the re-growing beach and dunes that makes up the Caminada Headlands, the southernmost edge of Jefferson and Lafourche parishes that protects both rich wetlands just to its north and the nationally important Port Fourchon, jumping off point for deepwater drilling. Viewing the rebuilding by a team of 80 employees of Weeks Marine, a dredging firm based in Covington, there were representatives of five federal agencies and the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority who were on the Elmer's Island segment of the Caminada beachfront to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. Read more.
The News-Herald - Mentor city leaders have no shortage of bidders on a shoreline protection project officials anticipate beginning later this fall. They recently opened eight bids for placing a stone revetment, or retaining wall, along 600 feet of the shore next to the Lagoons Marina. The bids ranged from $589,806 to $749,031. The engineer's estimate was $650,000. "It also will prevent a possible breach from Lake Erie into our marina, eliminating any threat to boating operations in the Lagoons," Mentor Engineer Dave Swiger said. The project, originally budgeted for 2016, was moved up because of increased erosion due to higher lake levels. The city has lost up to 6 acres of shoreline in the last dozen or so years, said Grants Coordinator Abe Bruckman. He attempted to find outside funding sources for the project. It will be paid for entirely with city funds. The pric is more than double what it was three years ago, when the U.S. Army Corps first granted approval for the work. Read more.
Palm Beach Daily News - Plans to dredge the Lake Worth Inlet and dump sand onto North End beaches - plans that were in limbo this summer - are moving forward after the United States Army Corps of Engineers changed its view on the cost of sand placement. It's a win-win for the town as it will not have to help pay for the estimated $5.5 million dredge project, or spend possibly thousands for the Corps to place the sand on the dry beach instead of in the nearshore waters. In August, town officials denied the Corps' request for the town to cover a $1.7 million shortfall for the project because Corps officials couldn't guarantee the money would be returned. Two months earlier, there also had been debate on whether it was the Corps' responsibility to place sand on the town's dry beaches, and whether the town should share in the cost. Read more.
South Florida Business Journals - Three years ago, the Florida Inland Navigation District spent $7 million to deepen the Dania Cutoff Canal to 17 feet. A new study says those dollars quickly returned to marine businesses over the years, creating a 59 percent increase in revenues for Dania Beach's boatyards, and a $23.4 billion economic impact. According to the study, commissioned by FIND and conducted by Thomas J. Murray & Associates, the economic impact was evident even in the first year, when the canal's boatyards saw a $10.8 million increase in revenues in the 12 months after the dredging project was complete. Deeper waterways allow boatyards to accept larger vessels, whose repairs tend to be more expensive, generating more dollars for the companies servicing them. Read more.
That $175 billion in Tampa Bay storm surge damage from a major hurricane? Expect half to be uninsured
Tampa Bay Times - Here's a postscript to last week's news that Tampa Bay ranks as the nation's most vulnerable metro area to the threat of storm surge from a once-in-a-century hurricane: At least half of the $175 billion in estimated storm surge losses would be uninsured. That estimate came Wednesday from Karen Clark & Co. The firm, which specializes in modeling property damage and losses from storms and earthquakes, looked at potential storm surge losses from a Category 4 hurricane with peak winds of 150 mph. The company said uninsured losses would be "probably significantly more" than half the total, but without doing a detailed study it's impossible to be precise. Also worth noting: the Boston-based catastrophe-modeling firm isn't the first to raise a warning flag about the threat of hurricane-driven storm surge to the Tampa Bay area. Read more.
Cape May County Herald - Cape May County Freeholder Marie Hayes and Cape May County Emergency Management Director Martin Pagluighi met with New Jersey Department of Environmental Commissioner Robert Martin in Trenton Oct. 13 to discuss challenges facing local municipalities, marinas and related businesses regarding dredging. During the meeting, Commissioner Martin and his staff accepted a report compiled by a working group chaired by Hayes and pledged cooperation to work through logistical and environmental issues that delay or prohibit dredging projects in our region. "Commissioner Martin made it very clear to our working group that it is very important for municipalities, counties and stake holders to have a good, active plan with active permits to accomplish essential dredging operations in our back bays and marinas," Hayes said. "The Commissioner reviewed the report and stated that it is very helpful for his staff to develop common sense, science-based approaches to issues that can impede dredging projects in our county and throughout the state." Read more.