Long after the media stops talking about the damage done from hurricanes like Sandy, Ike, and Katrina, in each of our communities, we are left with the task of rebuilding our coastlines and cities to be more resilient to the wipe outs that take years to recover from. Today, after eight years, have we forgotten about Katrina? What do we need to take the long view on coastal resilience?
In a feature-length interview with Jared Green on ASLA’s The DIRT Blog, CEO Kevin Shanley speaks about the future of our coasts and the need for long-term resilience strategies. The news media isn’t a good place to host conversations about our coasts, because the long-term planning and strategies needed for resilience require dedication over decades, not a sensational headline.
“The challenge after Sandy is to ask ourselves what’s the next thing that’s going to distract everybody? In 2001, Houston was hit not with a hurricane but with a really amazing tropical storm called Allison. It dumped thirty inches of rain in twenty-four hours. It flooded seventy-five thousand homes and ninety five thousand cars. It was an amazing flood. It actually tracked all the way up to Canada. Post-Allison, many good things started to happen and a number actually did happen. There were bigger policy changes and changes that many of us were working on, but then in September 2001, guess what happened? The national attention, the local attention, everybody’s attention totally changed and a lot of policy-changing momentum was lost.”
“The lesson we need to learn is quite important: we forget really quickly. Katrina happened, now eight years ago. Some structural changes were made to the levee system, but all of the really great plans to re-build New Orleans as a more sustainable community, a better community, a more integrated community came to nothing. In Houston in 2008, Hurricane Ike was a near miss.”
What can we do to improve our cities and our coasts? How can we become more resilient? And are soft infrastructure approaches the best strategy — or are they also problematic?