The Long, Slow Drowning of the New Jersey Shore

Below excerpts are from an August 12th article published in The New York Times Magazine. The full article is available here.

“The barrier islands today display ample evidence of their battle with human development: failing bulkheads bowing against the corrosive press of water; lumpy and cracked streets, the result of the earth’s constant settling beneath them; high tide bubbling from sidewalk seams; beaches wiped away by a single anonymous storm…

The enemy, of course, is the water. Early development on the islands was concentrated toward the oceanfront, but the static nature of infrastructure was in conflict with the shoreline’s need to breathe. Boardwalks, homes and roads and the jetties, sea walls and bulkheads constructed to protect them did little more than accelerate erosion…

“In many places on the barrier islands, nuisance flooding now accompanies practically every full-moon high tide, heavy downpour or strong shoreward wind. These events rarely show up in the news, but in their persistent submerging of lawns and roads for hours at a time, they represent the primary existential threat to the beating heart of the Jersey Shore…

“For the last five years, the Army corps has been conducting its own New Jersey back-bays study, as part of the agency’s long-term strategy for managing the risk of coastal flooding. It estimates that the state’s 950-square-mile back-bay areas and oceanfront will soon be sustaining $1.57 billion in annual damages over a 50-year period if no new flood-mitigation measures are implemented. One of the study’s visions for the future imagines a coast armored with concrete and steel. But the scale of that sort of work dwarfs the projects currently underway on the barrier islands: Storm-surge barriers alone would cost more than $16 billion…

“The study’s authors concede that ‘in some cases, just as ecosystems migrate and change functions, human systems may have to relocate in a responsible manner.'”

Click here to read the full article.

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