Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student PJ Connell makes this connection here…

On June 11th, 2013, the New York Times published an article titled “Bloomberg Outlines $20 Billion Storm Protection Plan,” written by journalists Kia Gregory and Marc Santora. The article summarizes New York City Michael Bloomberg’s recently released plan to help defend NYC against rising sea levels and extreme precipitation events. The plan includes layouts for an elaborate network of flood walls, levees, and bulkheads to cover the hundreds of miles of coast. Aside from providing these basic details of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan, this article states the rationale behind the multi-billion dollar plan. The main WRE issue discussed in this article is the precipitation processes that make up a key part of the hydrologic cycle, as a driving force behind the proposal of this plan was the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy (a notable example of a cyclonic precipitation event). In addition, this article highlights many key elements of flood mitigation, an important area of water resources management. Some of the critical points in this bit of news revolved around the argument that many central pieces of NYC infrastructure are near large bodies of water or in threatened zones, which is true. 53% of New York’s power plants are in the current floodplain, and that number is projected to increase to 97% by 2050 (Goldman, 2013). Furthermore, in stating the rationale for the plan, this article highlighted the fact that NYC is woefully unprepared for projected future rising sea level and extreme precipitation events. This is verified by an article published before this one by the New York Times in 2012, which stated the following: if sea levels rise just four feet by the 2080s, the percentage of NYC cities that exist in flood-risk zones will triple (Navarro, 2012). The only thing missing from the news story, though it may have been present in the formalized written proposal, was a map highlighting the key elements of this plan. Nonetheless, the article was thorough and informative.

This hydrology issue will certainly impact the local, state, and federal economy. According to Mayor Bloomberg’ administration, about $10 billion of the necessary funds will come from previously allocated federal and city funds, thereby impacting the wallets of the federal and city governments. Congress has promised an additional $5 billion, leaving NYC in need of an additional $5 billion if the projected budget of the plan remains the same. Initialization of the plan alone is expected to cost about $20 billion, though more often than not these prices tend to increase before all is said and done. Moreover, continued maintenance and expansion on this flood mitigation infrastructure will inevitably lead to significant operation costs, which will impact the local, state, and federal economies for years to come, with no end in sight. However, the Bloomberg administration also pointed out that Hurricane Sandy alone caused $19 billion in damages, and a similar storm in the near future (if sea level rise predictions are correct) could cause around $90 billion in damages, which would seem to make it a worthwhile investment. One thing that has proved important it past flood mitigation efforts but seems to be lacking in this plan is the incorporation of local knowledge. For example, a 2007 study highlighted the advantages of gathering local/lay knowledge in relation to flood concerns, referring to such knowledge as “authoritative knowledge” and stating the importance of considering it when forming flood mitigation legislation and initiatives (McEwen and Jones, 2012). In short, for better or for worse, Bloomberg’s flood mitigation will unequivocally impact the finance sector of all relevant governing bodies. Time, energy, and resources are going to be exerted by the NYC government in order to obtain and properly administer the funds required for this initiative. On the flip side, however, the money that is spent will go back into the economy (e.g. to the various contracting agencies that are hired to do the work), so the pros may balance out the cons.

Mayor Bloomberg unveils his $20 billion flood mitigation plan at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Tuesday, June 11th, 2013. Source: The New York Times.

Mayor Bloomberg unveils his $20 billion flood mitigation plan at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Tuesday, June 11th, 2013. Source: The New York Times.

A police officer looks at vehicles submerged by flood waters that resulted from Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. Source: Bloomberg.

A police officer looks at vehicles submerged by flood waters that resulted from Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. Source: Bloomberg.

References

Goldman, Henry. “Bloomberg Proposes $20 Billion NYC Flood Plan After Sandy.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 11 June 2013. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

Gregory, Kia, and Marc Santora. “Bloomberg Outlines $20 Billion Storm Protection Plan.” The New York Times 11 June 2013, U.U ed., N.Y. / Region sec.: n. pag. 11 June 2013. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

McEwen, L and Jones, O. Building local/lay flood knowledges into community flood resilience planning after the July 2007 floods, Gloucestershire, UK, in Hydrology Research 2012, pp. 675-688, EBSCO Host.

Navarro, Mireya. “New York Is Lagging as Seas and Risks Rise, Critics Warn.” The New York Times 10 September 2012, U.U ed., N.Y. / Region sec.: n. pag. 10 September 2012. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

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