|Letters to the Editor
This section includes Letters to the Editor received by the Newsletter Editors. These letters may or may not have been published.
April 19, 2007
To the Editor
In "Concerns of beach erosion linger after storm," Newsday points out
that, according to Suffolk officials, "about one-third of the sand
placed at Smith Point County Park 10 days earlier was washed away."
The article notes that are "no plans to replenish the lost sand," and
adds that "The total project cost
$4.7 million." The implication is that the project failed and the
money was wasted.
Far from it.
In all likelihood, had the Smith Point beach not been replenished, the
pavilion would have been lost and the cost of replacing it would have
been well in excess of $4.7 million. Worse, the facility would have
been lost to the million-plus annual users for the next few summers.
Not only that, a good proportion (not
all) of the "two-thirds" of the sand supposedly lost will find its way
back onto the beach, starting as soon as the wind settles in from the
southwest as it does every summer.
At the LICA Conference of April 5, held at Stony Brook University's
Marine Sciences Research Center, scientists and engineers reminded
participants that Long Island is a sand rich coastal environment,
unlike most of the East and Gulf Coasts. What is lacking is the will to
manage our coastal resources effectively.
The writer is Chairman of the Long Island Coastal Alliance, President
of the Fire Island Association and Vice President of the American
Shore and Beach Preservation Association
The following letter was written in response to the below editorial "Put a stop to Corps of Engineers boondoggles"
From: Howard Marlowe
Sent: Tuesday, July 18, 2006 12:30 PM
Subject: Beach Restoration is Not a Boondoggle
Your July 18th editorial [Put a stop to Corps of Engineers Boondoggles] takes a swipe a beach rebuilding. What you ignore is the fact that people from New Hampshire use beaches that have been renourished with federal, state, and local dollars in projects planned and implemented by the Army Corps of Engineers. Without federal dollars, the only beaches available in many areas of the country would be those renourished by private resorts.
We have recently studied just a few North Carolina beach communities and have mapped the home states of the users of these beaches. Not surprisingly, New Hampshire is well represented as are people from most other states throughout the nation.
Projects that repair erosion -- which is largely caused by navigation channels and not by nature, and provide recreational opportunities for the public as well as environmental habitat for turtles, plovers and other species -- are not boondoggles. Every beach restored with Federal dollars is a public beach that benefits and is used by the public I have enclosed some of the maps we prepared as well as a photo of folks from lots of states enjoying a New Jersey beach last weekend.
Government Affairs Consultant
American Shore and Beach Preservation Association
Map of Nags Head, NC Visitors 2003-2005
Map of Bogue Banks, NC Property Owners Primary Residences
Map of Topsail Island, NC Property Owners Primary Residences
New Jersey Beach Visitors
Put a stop to Corps of Engineers boondoggles
Concord (NH) Monitor Editorial
July 18, 2006
The U.S. Senate voted overwhelming last week to replace FEMA, a federal agency whose name became inextricably linked to failure in the days and months after Hurricane Katrina, with a new agency. The Emergency Management Authority will remain under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, but unlike FEMA, it will report to both Homeland Security and to the president.
The reshuffling may or may not solve the agency's many problems, but it's a start. This week, however, the Senate will turn its attention to the agency that bears the most responsibility for the needless loss of life and property in New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers.
It was the Corps whose faulty design of the city's levee system, whose refusal to heed decades-old warnings that the levees would not hold and whose shoddy construction practices caused the levees to collapse and drown the city.
The disaster was a symptom of a much larger, longstanding problem with the Corps. It is one of the biggest barrels of pork in Washington, and no outside agency has oversight over its planning and projects. It is answerable not to presidents or secretaries of defense, but only to the members of Congress who use the Corps to funnel money to their home states.
Tomorrow the Senate will take up the Water Resources and Development Act passed earlier by the House. The measure contains $12 billion worth of alleged flood control, water resources and environmental protection projects. If it passes in its current form, that sum will be added to the $58 billion list of previously approved Corps projects.
That backlog is big enough, if nothing is ever added to it, to keep the Corps digging and dredging for the next 40 years.
Some Corps projects work beautifully, as the elaborate flood control system it built in central New Hampshire a half-century ago proved again this spring. But many are a waste of money, and some do far more harm than good.
The bad projects get built - often while worthy ones wait - because the priorities of the Corps are based not on need but politics.
To justify a project, the Corps need only show that its public or private economic benefit will be more than its cost to taxpayers. When, to please a congressional benefactor, the Corps can't make the numbers add up, it cooks the books, according to audits by the General Accounting Office and others. The agency's priorities are so wrong that "beach rebuilding" has become its fastest-growing activity. Many of the beaches it spends million re-sanding are off-limits to the public.
Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut are trying to reform the Corps by creating an independent agency to assess its projects and rank them in the order of their priority. The rankings would not be binding on the Corps, but they would be made public so that taxpayers who pay for the projects would know which are boondoggles and which are justified.
To counter the attempt to bring some fiscal responsibility to the process, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe has introduced a rival amendment to keep the pork barrel open.
New Hampshire benefits from Corps projects, and perhaps a dozen are in the works. But Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu enjoy a reputation for frugality, fiscal responsibility and abhorrence of waste. Their vote on the attempt to reform the Corps will say a lot about whether that reputation is deserved.
June 21, 2006
Ms. Cornelia Dean
The New York Times
Dear Ms. Dean.
Interesting article on sea level rise. Debate of nationally and globally significant natural resource issues and the best societal response is good, because it gets people thinking and talking.
However, before we all jump ship and conclude that the doomsday scenario of sea level rise and coastal destruction are imminent, and that we as a nation should therefore abandon our coasts, we should critically look at some facts.
(1) Sea level has been rising worldwide for at least 150 centuries, since the declining phase of the late-Wisconsin glaciation (~ 15,000 years ago), though not at a constant rate. We have intensely inhabited and invested in this zone only for the last century or at most two.
(2) On the mid-Atlantic coast, sea level rose about 1 foot during the 20th Century, based on high-quality measurements from numerous tide gages from Boston to North Carolina and beyond. The point isn't that the number is exactly 1.000 feet/100 years, or that the rate is identical at every location, just that the most densely populated corridor in the nation, with arguably the highest density of coastal development and beach user demand, has survived the 20th Century of sea level rise, irrespective of its causes, with only a relatively modest societal response. That societal response includes each state's unique coastal zone management policies relative to development, a patchwork of national and state policies on restoring and protecting beaches (the national "shore protection" program of Congress, the Corps of Engineers, and states), and thousands if not millions of individual, personal choices as to where to retire or where to spend a week or a day (at the beach).
(3) Sea level rise is predicted to accelerate in the 21st (present) century and beyond. However, there is no evidence from ~100 years of high-quality tide observations in the mid-Atlantic region that the predicted acceleration has actually begun. One can examine any given year or decade from the 20th Century tide data set and observe that the sea level change rate has both risen and fallen over the last 100 years. Like many statistics, what you conclude depends a lot on how you look at the data. Nevertheless, the "big picture" is that we have measured - and apparently survived - about one foot sea level rise in 100 years, with no apparent recent increase to suggest that the scenario of accelerated rise has yet started.
(4) Sea level rise has not been a principal cause of coastal erosion and its impacts on human development of the mid-Atlantic shoreline over the past century. Instead, the most important factors contributing to coastal erosion and the risks of living on or near the ocean coast include human modifications to our shorelines, especially at inlets, and the risks posed by storms. Sea level rise may be a contributing factor to these problems, but it is dwarfed by other factors, some of which society can influence, and some of which it can not.
(5) NJ arguably has the most ambitious, proactive shore protection program in the nation. The state legislature has a dedicated commitment of $25M annually for shore protection projects, cost-shared where possible with the Federal Government, but without a Federal partner when necessary. One of every eight people in the entire US lives within 100 miles of the NJ coast that extends from Sandy Hook to Cape May (35 million out of the 2000 US census of 280 M people.) That funding commitment simply reflects a realization that some aspects of a state's culture and economy are worth investing in. If that cost goes up in the future due to accelerated sea level rise, does anyone really believe that the investment is not worth making, or that future generations won't be willing to make the same or greater commitment?
(6) The doomsday scenario predicted in the Heinz report is based on assumptions which I do not believe are remotely realistic. On page 121 of that report ("Economic Impacts of Erosion") it states: "The estimates presented throughout this chapter assume that communities will not respond to erosion by nourishing or hardening their beaches or implementing state or local setbacks regulations."
That assumption is quite contrary to the actual societal response to erosion over the past century or more. It is a bit like estimating that America's communities will be uninhabitable within 50 years based on an assumption that "homeowners will not repair their roofs or plumbing" and thus our residential infrastructure will fall into soggy ruin. The simple fact is that prudent stewards - whether homeowners or elected officials - are willing to make reasonable investments in "repair and upkeep" to protect that which is of value to them. There may be a point at which further investment is not warranted based on the value of what is being protected. I'm no economist, but I doubt we are at the point where very many practical people would argue we should abandon our beaches and coastal communities because it is economically inefficient to invest to protect and maintain them.
In conclusion, I believe there are ample and legitimate reasons to be concerned about accelerated sea level rise, to take actions to minimize human contributions to that phenomenon, as well as to mitigate for its effects on the coast. However, it is highly premature and over-reactive to conclude that the dangers and costs are so great as to warrant surrender of our coasts without looking at viable options to protect these resources. Retreat may be the best societal response in some places in some conditions, but I suspect it will be not be the case for NJ or the rest of the mid-Atlantic coastal corridor until long after I am gone.
(Disclaimer - the author of this letter is an oceanographer who has worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers for 28 years on coastal problems, including sea level rise, storms, and shore protection.)
Jeffrey A. Gebert
6 Sunnybrook Court
S tratford, NJ 08084
To the Editor, Orlando Sentinel
I am angry and disturbed at the April 27, 2006 piece by Orrin Pilkey and Andrew Coburn in which the pair continues their obsessive and misleading attacks on the US Army Corps of Engineers. Pilkey and Coburn are noted for their heavily biased criticisms of the Nation’s engineering and construction agency. Their motivations are unclear, but mine are not: I have spent the last twenty years of my career working with the Corps at every level, and there is no other federal agency more competent, honest, and dedicated to their mission than the Corps of Engineers. The Corps’ mission areas include harbor and river navigation, flood control, hydropower, shoreline protection, environmental restoration, and emergency response, and they do an outstanding job.
The projects cited by Pilkey and Coburn are a few problematic ones among hundreds of successful and cost-beneficial projects every year; projects which enable commerce, protect people and infrastructure, generate power, stimulate the economy, and yes, protect and restore natural resources. And the Corps is listening to its critics. Each of the reform measures mentioned by the authors is already being implemented internally at the Corps, along with a number of other measures.
Most galling is the authors’ attempt to lay blame for the catastrophe in New Orleans on the Corps. It is well to remember that the Corps is part of the Army – its commanders get their budget from Congress and their marching orders from the Commander-in-Chief. Then they execute their mission with courage, integrity, and effectiveness. Pilkey and Coburn, you could learn from them.
Stephen Higgins, Beach Erosion Administrator
Broward County Environmental Protection Department
2/22/06 Editorial from The State Port Pilot
ASBPA President Harry Simmons and the ASBPA Summit are prominently featured in this editorial from the State Port Pilot of Southport, North Carolina
2/19/06 Newsday Letter Exchange
Newsday (New York)
SECTION: OPINION; Pg. A48
February 16, 2006 Thursday
NASSAU AND SUFFOLK EDITION
LENGTH: 1251 words
Regarding "Budget to fund LI coastline study" [News, Feb. 8], the Nature Conservancy shares Rep. Tim Bishop's support for the $1.7 million allotted to complete the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study in the president's proposed budget. The conservancy has worked closely with the Army Corps of Engineers on this study for many years, and we strongly support this federal investment in wise coastal planning.
But the article mischaracterizes the purpose and likely outcomes of the project. For example, the purpose of the study is not to research erosion, nor is the project intended to resupply sand - as suggested by the article. The project's purpose is to reduce risk to life and property through a variety of mechanisms, particularly the restoration of natural coastal processes and natural protective features.
Erosion is a natural process, one essential to a vibrant and dynamic beach ecosystem. The study will not - and should not - recommend bulking up federal flood insurance programs to "fill the gap" if private insurers don't provide coverage on Fire Island.
Sarah G. Newkirk
Editor's note: The writer is coastal project director of the Long Island Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
To the Editor
Sarah Newkirk of the Nature Conservancy writes (February 16) that “erosion is a natural process” and one “essential to a vibrant and dynamic beach ecosystem.” Says who? Erosion is mostly man-induced. No barrier island, for example, is “natural” once inlets have been stabilized by jetties to allow safe boater access to and from the ocean. When the alongshore drift of sand is interrupted by man-made structures, Long Island’s south shore beaches can and must be maintained by well-understood techniques of beach restoration, as Congressman Bishop suggested, along with periodic sand replenishment and inlet bypassing.
No scientific study I know of has found erosion “essential” for anything.
Chairman, LI Coastal Alliance; President, Fire Island Association
1/06/06 New York Times
[Note: this letter was written to the New York Times by ASBPA Vice-President Gerard Stoddard]
Subject: Flood Insurance Article Janurary 6, p. D1
To the Editor:
An insurance trade group spokeswoman, in the article on flood insurance
Joseph B. Treaster and Cornelia Dean ("Yet Another Victim of Katrina,
Federal Flood Insurance Program Is Itself Under Water," Business
January 6, p. 1) is said "to link flood insurance and coastal building.
it's not available, if you can't cover your million dollar house on a
dune, you don't build your million dollar house'."
The article notes that flood policies are capped at $250,000. Clearly,
something other than the ability to cover 25 per cent of the value of a
house at an annual cost of almost $500 that causes people to want to
near the shore, as they are doing in increasing numbers.
The coverage cap for policies issued under the national Flood Insurance
Program (NFIP), as well as rates, may need to be increased. And it might
well to prohibit government payouts to those in properly mapped flood
who refuse to participate. But the underlying theory of the NFIP is
require construction standards appropriate to the area so that damage is
minimal in most years and build a reserve to pay valid claims when
are huge and damage widespread.
The writer is vice president of the American Shore & Beach Preservation