Conclusions

The existing storm surge barriers in New England and Europe were built after devastating floods that did enormous damage and cost hundreds, even thousands, of lives. Considering the projected multibillion costs for metropolitan New York, regrettably it may take a similar disaster for a decision to be made to build storm surge barriers to protect the metropolitan region.

With the increasing likelihood of more frequent flooding due to climate change and the possibility of rapid sea level rise, such a delay should clearly be minimized. There is still no broad public awareness of the problem and thus no political concern. We conclude, therefore, that it is incumbent upon the professional community — scientists and engineers inside and outside government — to take the initiative to move forward with an evaluation of the feasibility of building storm surge barriers to protect the core region of metropolitan New York.

Table 9.3 Comparative delays between serious flooding events and final completion of storm surge barriers for seven locations

Barrier

Flood

Delay (years)

Start

Construction time (years)

Completion

Providence

1938

23

1961

5

1966

New Bedford

1938

24

1962

4

1966

Stamford

1938

27

1965

4

1969

Hollandse liessel

1953

1

1954

4

1958

Eastern Scheldt

1953

14-26

1967-1979

7

1986

Maeslant

1953

36

1989

8

1997

Venice

1966

37

2003

8

(2011)

Nobody alive knows what the climate and weather will be like 500 years from now. We don't know if civilization as we know it will endure that long. But we can plan for a 200-year time horizon; it seems that we can, and should, start planning for storm surge barriers, and start now.

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