Coastal cities in the United States are grappling with the need for extensive infrastructure projects to protect against rising seas and worsening storms. The cost of these projects will be enormous, and it is unclear how to pay to them.
Boston has many neighborhoods in low-lying areas, and it is estimated that $2.4 billion will be needed to protect the city from flooding. The city abandoned plans to build a harbor barrier that would have cost $6 to $12 billion because it was economically unfeasible.
Charleston, South Caroline needs $2 billion to reduce flooding that occurs regularly during high tides. The Houston, Texas area needs $30 billion to provide protection against a 100-year flood. Hurricane Harvey caused $125 billion in damages in Texas in 2017. New York City is considering a $10 billion storm surge barrier and floodgates to shield parts of the city from rising waters.
Florida faces the greatest exposure to flooding with an estimated $76 billion in costs to address some of its problems.
At the federal level, multiple agencies represent potential funding sources, but none offer the kind of money required to address the need. This places a heavy burden on state and local governments. Various states have passed legislation related to shoreline resiliency and flood abatement, but relatively little funding has been approved. Some bond measures have passed, but the totals are small compared with what is needed.
Educating people about the costs of not doing anything or not doing enough soon enough is essential. As Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, not spending a large amount of money on resilience can result in having to spend a colossal amount of money on recovery.
Photo, posted December 26, 2013, courtesy of Flickr.