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A Tale of Two Cities Impacted by Climate Change-Fueled Flooding

Once again, financial means makes a difference.

By now you know that I listen to podcasts. It is how I entertain myself while on my morning walks. Surprisingly there are a number of these that apply directly to our emergency management world.

One such The Daily podcast that I caught recently was “Which Towns Are Worth Saving?

It is a tale of two cities, one poor and one with more financial means. One is on a river and the other not only “on the beach” but in danger of becoming part of the ocean.

Some observations:

For the one on the river:
  • FEMA mitigation buyouts have been working, but to the detriment of the population and the tax base of the town
  • The downtown main street has been trashed and there is little hope of saving it
  • A solution is to move the business district up the hill out of the flood zone
  • What is proposed is not likely to happen due to a lack of resources. The feds may help, but they won’t foot the entire bill and with a dwindling population, it is likely the river will claim more houses in the future. Their future is dim indeed

For the one on a barrier island:
  • Both are not far apart, except financially
  • The problem here is beach erosion
  • The beach is being moved up and under the homes fronting on the ocean
  • Everyone wants someone else to fix the problem, but surprisingly the town fathers voted to pump sand from the Atlantic Ocean up on land to restore the beach. This will cost millions of dollars and will need to be renewed about every five years — or until the next big storm
  • I’d say, like the river town, there future is dim indeed

In the second case they have money to throw at a temporary solution that sea rise and storms will discard quickly.

The word “retreat” was used only for the beachfront community, but it is going to be used over and over again in the future when communities run out of options and money.

My advice, if you own ocean- and riverfront property today, sell it off now before it becomes unsellable in the future. Or, ride that horse until it is dead and then dismount and walk away.
Eric Holdeman is a nationally known emergency manager. He has worked in emergency management at the federal, state and local government levels. Today he serves as the Director, Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR), which is part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER). The focus for his work there is engaging the public and private sectors to work collaboratively on issues of common interest, regionally and cross jurisdictionally.
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