Harry Shearer: Preventing Another “Sandy”: The Lessons New Orleans can Teach New Jersey

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By satirist Harry Shearer, who recently took two years off from comedy to direct “The Big Uneasy”, a documentary about the investigations into the 2005 New Orleans flood

Within hours of the landfall of Sandy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was telling his homeboy anchor Brian Williams that he was going to get on the phone to the President and request the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a plan for protecting the Jersey shore. If he hasn’t yet placed that call, he might want to give it a second think.

And a first read. For starters, he might look up two forensic engineering investigations into the New Orleans flooding disaster of 2005, known popularly as “Katrina”. The final reports of those probes, the ILIT report from UC Berkeley and the Team Louisiana report from LSU, are here and here. Conducted simultaneously but independently, the investigations agree on the major culpability for the disaster resting on four-plus decades of engineering mistakes, miscalculations and misjudgments made by the US Army Corps of Engineers, in designing and constructing a “hurricane protection system” mandated by Congress after the devastation of an earlier storm. In the words of one of the co-authors of the Berkeley report, the New Orleans flood was “the greatest man-made engineering catastrophe since Chernobyl.”

The Corps’ own chief official at the time, Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, actually took responsibility for the failure, in a press conference in late May, 2006. Within two months, he had, or had been, retired.

A second piece of recommended reading for the Governor would be the voluminous opinion by federal judge Stanwood Duval in Robinson et al v. United States, the first case to come to trial involving the flooding. In that opinion–first upheld by a three-judge appellate panel, then more recently reversed by the same panel (?) –Judge Duval reviewed exhaustively detailed expert testimony and concluded that the Corps exhibited negligence in its failure to heed warnings from within its own engineering staff that the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet it had constructed would, if no serious ameliorative steps were taken, continue to erode and widen its banks, leading to what actually did happen–the catastrophic funneling of storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico straight into the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East, and suburban St. Bernard Parish.

The 2005 flooding, contrary to the impression held by most Americans, was not limited to areas occupied by poor African-Americans. Eighty percent of the city was under feet of water for up to six weeks. One hundred percent of St. Bernard Parish was inundated. Hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed. Estimates of the economic damage wrought by the disaster range from $75 billion to double that. One estimate of total economic losses generated by the catastrophe is $250 billion. While chaos in the coroner’s office makes a definitive death toll hard to achieve, the consensus figure is that at least 1,800 people died in the New Orleans flood, many of them drowned in their own attics while trying to escape the floodwaters.

Governor Christie might then want to finish off his studies by perusing the report from the US Office of Special Counsel, an agency within DOJ tasked with vetting government whistleblower complaints, regarding the findings of an engineer within the Corps, Maria Garzino. She was responsible for testing and installation of pumps in the new, “improved” +$10 billion system the Corps has constructed in post-Katrina New Orleans. Her findings: the hydraulic pumps continuously failed their pre-installation testing, even when standards were lowered to enable passage; they were installed anyway; and their design defects mean they will fail when they are run in hurricane conditions. The OSC hired an outside consultant to review her findings, and he wrote that they were, if anything, “understated”. That report has been in the possession of the President since June, 2009. The Governor might even suggest that the President read it.

Williams, who has made much of his affection for New Orleans, probably knows much of this material, but if he mentioned it to Christie, that didn’t make air.

Nor is New Orleans the only location to receive this kind of “assistance”. The book “Paving Paradise” covers the more than three decades in which the Corps has had the role of regulator and enforcer of the Clean Water Act in Florida, with particular attention to its role in enforcing the “no net loss of wetlands” provision of the CWA. The result: a major net loss of wetlands. Within months of assuming regulatory authority (this will come as no surprise to NC readers), the Corps decided to define the developers seeking permits to drain and build on wetlands as its “clients”.

Governor Christie, or anyone else reading this material, might well ask, “What’s wrong with the Corps? Is this just typical federal government dysfunction?” Michael Grunwald, now with TIME, wrote a seminal 5-part history of the Corps in 2000 for the Washington Post. He told me that the Corps regards “failure as a growth opportunity.” One clue as to why it continues to operate this way is that it suffers no penalty for getting things wrong, even big things very wrong. To borrow a description the State Department once gave about Afghanistan, and its failure to overcome corruption, the Corps exists in a “culture of impunity”.

Given the massive devastation in the wake of Sandy, there will be a demand from far more quarters than just the New Jersey Governor’s office for protective measures along the coastline. The Corps will eagerly step up to the plate. Their motto, “Let Us Try”, inspires them to build big and expensive projects whenever a local Congressman cites a need. It would be the height of cruel irony if, in the wake of the devastation and suffering along the East Coast, the experience of New Orleans in accepting the Corps’ cocky assurances were repeated.

There are those, in the Crescent City and elsewhere, who advocate instead heeding what the Dutch have learned about living with water (see, e.g., http://dutchdialogues.com/). Following their own devastating flood in 1953, Dutch officials traveled the world for lessons, and they found one in New Orleans, where the famous Wood Pump (named for its inventor, not its construction material) continues to this day to drain rainwater from the city at a prodigious rate. In the years since, Dutch engineers have completely redesigned their system, and are continuing to learn more about, most importantly, unintended consequences of interrupting natural water flow. Most crucially, Dutch systems are designed for a “1-in-10,000-year event”, while the US has just spent $10 billion on a system designed by the Corps for a “1-in-100-year event”.

Before committing to the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of billions the Corps will require for its handiwork, the Governor might consider talking to the experts from a country that’s spent eight centuries learning to deal with the challenge of being substantially below sea level. And so might the President.

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  1. fresno dan

    Harry Shearer: Preventing Another “Sandy”: The Lessons New Orleans can Teach New Jersey
    “Conducted simultaneously but independently, the investigations agree on the major culpability for the disaster resting on four-plus decades of engineering mistakes…”

    “One clue as to why it continues to operate this way is that it suffers no penalty for getting things wrong, even big things very wrong.”

    Kinda seeing a pattern…

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Can you doubt that the U.S. Army Corps works hand in glove with Big Oil interests? Everybody in the vicinity knew that the “new” levee system, including pump system, was rushed for unrelated “corporate” interests. The MRGO has been ruining southern Lousiana for decades, and vegetation in St. Bernard was killed obviously by salt water intrusion from the MRGO, designed to suit Shipping and its brother, Big Oil. Nothing was done about barrier island loss for decades. It was common knowledge among Big Oil representatives in New Orleans that Big Oil wanted nothing more than for the inhabitants of southern Louisiana to just disappear, so there would be no impediment to O&G drilling, pipelines, and infinite profits, and so that there could pollute the land and water with impunity.

      Fracking States, take note: You are the next target to be ruined by O&G.

  2. Jim B

    See here is the problem. Congress funds the Engeeners. Changing the priorites every two years.Reducing the funds needed and giving the work of the engeeners to private companies, who are attempting to make a profit from the work done. With fewer “auditors” to oversee the work, it gets done for the least cost to the american public. And you are trusting your life or business to the lowest cost bidder?
    But this is the american way. Lower the barriers to get the job done at the least cost, and damn the consequences.

    1. just me

      The Army Corps of Engineers even rejects oversight by Congress:


      NEW ORLEANS – The Corps of Engineers acknowledged to 4 Investigates Monday that it will not have enough money to finish strengthening three New Orleans pump stations and the Sewerage and Water Board’s power plant so they can withstand Category 3 winds.

      Congress and former President George W. Bush gave the Corps more than $200 million after Hurricane Katrina specifically to harden New Orleans pump stations and the old Carrollton Power Plant that runs the sewer and water system.

      But in a closed-door meeting last week, the Corps told the three contractors handling the work that there isn’t enough money to retrofit the walls and roofs to withstand a Category 3’s 156-mile-per-hour winds.

      Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said he found out about it from Channel 4, and he is not happy.

      “Congress authorized this structure work, including this hardening work, and for the Corps to mount these cost overruns and then simply cancel the work, not even notify Congress what it will take to finish the work properly, I think, is totally irresponsible,” Vitter said.

      Vitter, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, just held a meeting last week to call for more funding for the Corps. But they are frustrated by the Corps’ constant problems with cost overruns.

      This is the craziest story. That’s just the opening. It goes on. Scrolling down:

      Benetech originally had the work on seven New Orleans pump stations and still is working on four of them.

      It surely hasn’t helped that Benetech has been beset by scandal while working on all seven pump stations.

      Benetech’s original owner, Aaron Bennett, awaits sentencing for a bribery conviction. He is accused of taking $600,000 from the pump station account to fund his wife’s movie project. His father took over Benetech and defaulted on three of the pump stations, forcing a bonding company to take over.

      Boyett said none of that had any effect on why the defaulted project ended up with 36 contract changes and 16 percent over-budget. Benetech’s four remaining stations required 21 contract changes and is a year behind schedule. Benetech construction manager Jim Book declined to comment.

      1. Ray Duray

        Re: “there isn’t enough money to retrofit the walls and roofs to withstand a Category 3′s 156-mile-per-hour winds.”

        There’s either a typo or a misunderstanding here. According to the Saffir-Simpson Scale, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffir-Simpson_Hurricane_Scale , a 156 MPH wind is an extreme Class 4 storm.

        The mandate in New Orleans is to build to a standard that will accommodate a Class 3 Hurricane with winds up to but not not exceeding 129 MPH.

        The general sense that the USACE is mandated to build to a 100 year storm event standard in New Orleans is correct.

  3. karl

    A tiny touch of perspective. When I was in high school one of my able and ambitious fellow students was very interested in the environmental movement and could cite chapter and verse of the Corps misdeeds and incompetence.

    To emphasize how “old news” this is — high school was 40 years ago.

    1. Susan the other

      I’ve always heard those comments and jokes, also for 40+ years. But that does not mean the ACE cannot become competent. Obviously they need to acquire a healthier respect for mother nature. The cost of doing things the right way will always be offset by the cost of doing them the wrong way. They might want to start now by moving New Jersey inland, away from the coast. Barrier islands are the equivalent of flood plains.

      1. William Neil

        Susan, I think you are right. The Corps is a force around the nation, a force for good and often bad projects around the nation – heaven knows the Greens have been battling them for decades and decades on specific projects and their orientation – but they don’t operate in a vacuum, they operate in American politics.

        One of the most amazing feats is the one you cite at the Jersey Coast: the successful effort over many years to convince elected officials that building on barrier islands is no big deal, nothing special and nothing risky. Long Beach island had 2500 homes destroyed and 8,000 more damaged in 1962 – and got clobbered again. Sea Bright, the town just before Sandy Hook, sits behind a massive sea wall that was undermined in the early 1990’s storm, and was apparently topped and outflanked again this time – and on the westward shore the Navesink River hit the town from that flank. Just driving through the town it has to flash upon even the casual observer that this is the silliest and most dangerous place to put wall to wall development. I wish all the affected residents speedy recovery and emergency assistance: but not the right to build it all back with massive subsidies in exaxtly the same place, same standards. But the emotional energy has always been behind the developers and property owners at the coast: so far, no comparable political force has been able to match them. Will a 30-50 billion dollar federal aid request in a time of “austerity” change that?

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          There has been “development” of formerly natural marshland and barrier islands offshore of Savannah, GA. This in itself is risky, but the “Savannah notch” of topography tends to protect us from the majority of Hurricanes coming up the Atlantic Coast. For the last year, BigMaritime has been trying to have its way with the Savannah River, wanting to dredge it deeply for ONE reason: to allow two ports on the Savannah River to receive ships of monstrous size (depth/width) carrying a monstrous load of “shipping containers” up the river. This “inevitability” is a direct outcome of the enlargement of the Panama Canal, enlarged to accommodate “ships from China” into U.S. Ports; and heaven forbid that any U.S. Port should fail to be “competitive” in this race to profit.

          With Peak Oil the prime issue of our nation, how does this make any sense? The plans for the Panama Canal to accommodate Big Oil and Big Shipping were made decades ago, after one Oil Crisis and now after Peak Price for OIl and Transportation. This is just MORE price-gouging by the Oil-Shipping cartel, and who knows what other cartels.

          Can we STOP with this insanity before Savannah is ruined?

          1. ambrit

            Dear LBR;
            Don’t fret so. When Chinese Labour starts to even things up over there, the resulting price rises will curtail shipping volume significantly. As a propaganda tool, how about some photos of the MRGO after Katrina? “And this, folks, is what downtown is going to look like after the next Cat 3 storm, once the river is dredged.”
            All of this Katrina referencing is making me think of J. G. Ballard’s “The Drowned World.”

          2. William Neil


            It’s an amazing phenomenon, no, the cycle of bigger and bigger cargo ships, container ships drive it, I believe. The deeper drafts needed mean every competing port must have – and correct me if I am wrong – extensive dredging because so few natural ports can meet the 50-65 foot channels needed – and so this is an externality put upon the public purse. Are the shipping companies or manufacturers paying for these extraordinary demands, which will affect natural systems and estuaries…on the Delaware River, which is experiencing salt water creeep upriver from the Bay, there has been much controversy over plans to dredge the channel deeper. In and around the NY-NJ harbors, deeper means expensive blasting since the channels are over rock in many cases, not sand and silt.

            It resembles an arms race, doesn’t it? There has to be a law of diminishing returns to ship size, but the multiplier costs of twisting port channels into shape keeps going up – all the candidate ports must do it: in VA, Baltimore, NY-NJ, Boston…on up to Maritimes in Canada…I guess the “constitutional defense” under the commerce clause is that its all for trade, entirely appropriate for the public purse to fund it…But this cycle’s absurd proportions and cascading effects makes one ask: no limits?

      2. just me

        The cost of doing things the right way will always be offset by the cost of doing them the wrong way.

        Not if you get more funding the more you screw up, and a spreading network cycle of contractors-campaign contributors-politicians. This is like the military industrial complex / war on terror, war on drugs, war on nature. It feeds itself on failure. It can’t stop itself.

  4. gozounlimited

    Geo-Engineering Frankenstorm Sandy

    Who is it that decides the people of this country and this planet don’t have the right to know their weather is purposefully manipulated on a continental and global scale?

    Who decides this massive and continuous operation is legal yet must kept secret from the public?

    Who is it that subjects all of Humanity to meteorologist after meteorologist proclaiming what a ‘mystery’ this decade of manufactured weather has been, as community after community is intentionally drowned,
    blown, or washed away?

    The People need to stop accepting endless diversions and rhetoric, and start finding out who actually controls their reality and perception of it.

    read more: http://jhaines6.wordpress.com/

  5. William Neil

    The Army Corps of Engineers chief mission in NJ has been to design and manage the nation’s largest beach replinishment projects – sand pumping – to keep the grains in front of the developoment. As I write this, the Corps and doubtless many others are scrambling to see whether these massive projects from the 1990’s worked during Sandy, which is the second great storm to hit NJ in 50 years, after the 1962 Great Northeaster.

    But the story, folks, is far more complex than the traditional role of the Corps in protecting real estate. In the late 1980’s I was the lead coastal negotiator for the environmental community trying to win, legislatively, a Coastal Commission to regulate development at the coast in the face of an ineffective law – CAFRA. That was under Gov. Tom Kean, a popular Governor. We did not succeed, and later, under Governor Whitman, the NJ Legislature gave homeowners and coastal property owners in general, the guaranteed right to rebuild after being damaged or destroyed in a storm. That’s where things stand now, no matter how foolish the site locations as revealed in the wake of Sandy.

    Governor Christie has compounded this grave legislative error by waiving existing laws, environmental and otherwise, for rebuilding the infrastructure which supports the development. It is an open question whether that is legal in light of federal regs at EPA.

    New York has just submitted a federal bill for disaster relief of 50 billion; NJ’s may be comparable or greater.

    Federal taxpayers have been subsidizing risky building at the Jersey shore for many years in many ways: the ratio for those beach projects was 65 to 35 fed to state/local. So taxpayers around the nation have a stake in whether, where and to what standards rebuilding is to take place – but not unless the law is changed.

    Naked Capitalism readers can follow the calls for a Coastal Commission to re-examine the status quo at the Jersey Coast here at Bill Wolfe’s Website… http://www.wolfenotes.com/

    My more detailed thoughts and comments can be found there by scrolling down over the past week or so in the comments section.

    1. just me

      I heard/saw a couple recent stories by NPR’s Joe Palca on New Jersey levees. The conclusion of the state senator interviewed in the second one is buy the houses and don’t rebuild.


      There is a solution to flooding that doesn’t include building levees. Steven Sweeney, president of the New Jersey State Senate, says there’s a community along the Raritan River that flooded last year after Hurricane Irene and this year after Sandy. Here’s what he suggests as a simpler and cheaper way to deal with the problem:

      “Get appraisals for their homes, write them a check, knock the homes down, and just let it go back to its natural state,” says Sweeney. “I think that’s something we really need to take a look at. Because governments have allowed people to build right onto the water, and water has a tendency to move.”

      Medlock agrees with Sweeney.

      “Ultimately this is about protecting people permanently. No levee provides permanent or complete protection. Buying out and relocating to higher, safer ground is permanent protection,” she says.

      I kinda don’t trust NPR, so I’m questioning the motivation of this story. Shock doctrine disaster capitalism is one thought. Then again, maybe a great way to increase to New Jersey wetlands? Ask not the Army Corps of Engineers to try.

      1. just me

        Actually, to be more explicit, I should say I especially question NPR on the subject of levees and flooding and the Army Corps of Engineers. Harry Shearer could tell us about his history with NPR and The Big Uneasy, his movie on New Orleans flooding due to ACE negligence. When NPR wouldn’t cover it on Morning Edition or All Things Considered, Shearer decided to buy what NPR calls enhanced underwriting (announcement ads).


        The money was on the table, and then things got… kind of NPR’y. Long story short, NPR’s legal department ruled that these words were not acceptable in the announcement: “documentary about why New Orleans flooded”, that the only words that would work for them were “documentary about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina” — this despite the fact that the movie IS about why New Orleans flooded, and it most certainly is not about the hurricane (since the experts interviewed in the movie agree that the flooding was a “man-made engineering catastrophe”).

        So NPR is an interesting player here.

        The other thought I have is that the state of New Jersey could be an interesting player too, if they want to take land away from private owners and deliver it to “clients” — developers. State-assisted disaster capitalism, like what happened in New Orleans post Katrina?

        1. different clue

          Well, if the housing-removal zones were turned into wildlife refuge land where building anything was forever forbidden, then it would not be a private gain for the disaster capitalists.

      2. William Neil

        Thanks very much “just me.” I hadn’t heard that from the Senate President; will he extend that comment to the barrier island’s development which has been wiped out or badly damaged? Can’t happen unless the legislature acts, unless EPA issues legal challenges to Christie’s actions.

        Just one clarification: that Sea Wall at Sea Bright is one of the last few fronting the Atlantic in NJ; the preferred defensive tool has been the sand pumping to try to create or keep beaches in place…including one in front of that sea wall. There were non-coastal dikes and levees breached by Sandy, including one in north jersey, but I didn’t get a good take on the location.

        And on a personal note: I was in the legislative witness chair next to my boss Dery Bennett of the American Littoral Society back in 1988-89 as Committee Chairman Dan Dalton, an otherwise good green Jersey Democrat, read us the riot act for trying to get Republican Gov. Tom Kean’s coastal bill passed; Dalton said it reminded him of the Pinelands law, and he apparently had constituent backlash on the regulatory nature of Pinelands. In other matters of the environment, Senator Dalton had no qualms about regulations.

        1. just me

          I’m on the left coast and don’t understand your Pinelands reference, but I DO get “clients” …

          Within months of assuming regulatory authority (this will come as no surprise to NC readers), the Corps decided to define the developers seeking permits to drain and build on wetlands as its “clients”.

          That’s what the San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use calls developers too, “clients.” And in a local story, even though the environmental impact report, major use permit and seller’s disclosures all required a 25-foot buffer to protect oak trees in a KB Home development in Campo, here is a picture of what DPLU permitted:


          Here is house owner, trying to wake up tree protections, in 3-minute comment period to County Board of Supervisors:


          I think you cannot make the county see a protected tree if there’s a “client.”

          And the result of approving that massively inappropriate development? Campo is now in the top 5% of underwater homes (91906 = 68%) in California, according to Zillow calculator. And I believe about a fourth of the homes in that KB development, including that one, were state and local assisted “affordable house program” houses. So we all pay for that.


          1. William Neil

            Yes “just me,” the New Jersey Pinelands are the vast stretches of pine forests, bogs and wetlands which many pass through on the way to the Jersey coast. Rt. 539 was always in my mind the best way to see them. They were protected in 1978-1979 by federal and state legislation which covered 1.1 million acres. Regulatory tools as well as public purchase of land were used to protect the area, which had not been overly subdivided by developers and is underlain by important acquifers. The region is also subject to wildfires, so it is not suitable for large developments: the retirement home industry was chomping at the bit to get at the inexpensive land…

            The closest analogy to Calif. land use is your Coastal Commission – and I think that they can hold their own in terms of controversies and battles over property rights.

            New Jersey will always rank highest in the nation in innovative and protective land use policies – Hackensack Meadowlands, Pinelands, and most surprisingly, the Highlands in 2005, plus the nation’s toughest wetland law. But following the mood of the country to the Right since 1980, protective land-use plans have come under increasing attack, including every NJ achievement I just mentioned.

            But despite these accomplishments, NJ’s coast has never been properly protected; it will be interesting to see if the increasing cost of protecting property/structures there, along with the implications of global warming can improve reform chances. The more taxpayers around the nation realize that they are paying for risky development at the Jersey shore, the better are our chances for more protective laws.

      3. ambrit

        We lived through both Katrina, the Storm, and Katrina, the Aftermath, down right on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Some things worked out right; the State of Mississippi handed out money to rebuild to owners of record who had losses. Lots of us took the money and fled inland; that’s why I type this from our home in Hattiesburg, which will be the Souths’ Riveria when the melt down finishes. Some of that money stuck to certain well connected fingers. The Barbourians haven’t been taken to task, but then neither has anyone else. I guess it’s a case of good old “honest graft.” One little noticed result of all this is the steady tightening of building codes down at the Gulf Shore. In the process, an insidious program of ‘gentrification’ is being carried out. Sure, ‘low cost’ densepack apartments were built, but hey, those peons have to live somewhere, don’t they? One thing is lacking, and I’ve said it before, no one that I’ve read about seems to be doing and planning or preliminary work on large scale relocations. That should be the Gold Standard. Sooner or later, the littoral will begin to flood. That’s not an event you can easily muddle through.

  6. LeonovaBalletRusse

    Harry Shearer writes:

    //”He told me that the Corps regards “failure as a growth opportunity.” One clue as to why it continues to operate this way is that it suffers no penalty for getting things wrong, even big things very wrong. To borrow a description the State Department once gave about Afghanistan, and its failure to overcome corruption, the Corps exists in a “culture of impunity”.//

    Yves, isn’t this the model for central banking and TBTF? The Shock Doctrine for profit in the aftermath of “failure”–whether intended or unintended.

  7. Steve

    Christie and the ACE already screwed up.

    During Sandy there was a large breach of the barrier Island in Mantoloking NJ. That has been filled in… It should not have been. The work was done by ACE with Christies encouragement.

    I was born in, and have lived in the area for all of my 60 years.

    Neither Mantoloking or Bay Head participated in the ACE beach replenishment.. regarding the damage… From what I have seen… The newer houses built on pilings or on grade beams with flood vents and/or breakaway walls faired well.
    It was the older homes that were washed away or were severely damaged. FWIW I toured the coast in a small craft within 100 yds of the beach so my knowledge is based on that visual. In addition I’ve spoken with a strutural engineer who is working on evaluating damage on houses throughout the area.

    The Barnegat Bay has been stressed for some time. Lack of oxygen blamed on overdevelopment…. yada yada….

    The real problem IMO is that the only ocean water that reaches the upper barnegat (Bay Head to Seaside) is through the point Pleasant canal… A made made hazard to navigation that starts the inter coastal water way. The canal is about a mile long and is narrow. The tide differential for the Manasquan river (Ocean side) to the Bay Head (bay side) is 3 1/2 hours… so no real flushing of the Bay water occurs…

    Mother nature solved the problem by creating Sandy’s inlet at the south end of Bay Head near Mantoloking…

    Within days People living along the bay noticed the cleaner water…. Even with the mud sand and debris kicked up by Sandy…

    Now closed in… I’m guessing ACE is going to let that newly filled in inlet to be a building site…

    And more commisions will be formed to SAVE the BAY…


    1. William Neil


      Thanks for this, because I hadn’t heard it or read it. After reading your post, I tried Googling the closure of the inlet, but didn’t turn up anything. I think you raise a good point about the possible effects – positive ones – on the troubled Barnegat Bay waters; I wonder what the Save Barnegat folks thought about the inlet?

      On the same line of thought, when the sea wall in Sea Bright was damaged in the early 1990’s, the NJDEP was very tight lipped about what happened, the assessment, and the remedy; I got a tour of the coast from a dissenting coastal geologist. These issues of coastal damage and repair are political hot potatoes, and I think you’ll find its not going to be easy for the public to be kept up to date, much less to have a full dialogue on the obvious rebuilding issues. Nice to see Orrin Pilkey have an op-ed in the NY Times this morning, Thursday.

    2. Bill Wolfe

      Steven – in addition to problem associated with a shallow coastal lagoon and lack of flushing, a big problem that has been ignored in Barnegat Bay is the loss of over 30% of fresh water inputs.

      The combined effect of wells pumping groundwater, the regional sewage plants who discharge to the ocean is effectively mining groundwater.

      Development creates impervious surface which severely limit groundwater recharge.

      This is causing salt water intrusion, depleted stream flows, and loss of freshwater to the Bay.

      Tremendous ecological damage from this. No one is even talking about it.

  8. Jeff W

    Harry Shearer is, of course, correct— and it’s been advocated since Hurricane Katrina. From the Newsweek article “It’s cheaper to go Dutch” (6 September 2006) [emphasis added], regarding New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina:

    Early cost estimates made it seem that whole sections of the city would have to be abandoned. But Hans Vrijling, a renowned authority on flood control who designed part of the Dutch system, says it should be possible to protect New Orleans–even low-lying sections–from storm surges more than 10 times Katrina’s. The price tag: less than $10 billion.

    Congress has given the Army Corps of Engineers $20 million to come up with a comprehensive design to protect the city permanently. American engineers have been in consultation with Dutch designers, and in the meantime the Corps has asked a Dutch firm to design a 100- to 200-year floodgate system for the western end of Lake Borgne. Dan Hitchings, the Army Corps official in charge of Gulf Coast protection, says it may ultimately bring in more Dutch help. But it likely won’t know for sure for more than a year. The Corps has until the end of 2007 to complete its study, and it shows no signs of speeding things along. Hitchings says the Corps has to give Congress a range of options and price tags, to “make sure the nation wants to do what the Netherlands did.”

    Vrijling, for one, can’t understand what the Corps is going to study for so long. The technology already exists and has been tested over decades in the Netherlands. He says Dutch and American engineers, working together, would need only “a couple of months” to draw up a detailed plan. “If we had the will and one month’s money from Iraq, we could do all the levees and restore the coast,” says Ivor Van Heerden, a Louisiana State University hurricane scientist who warned for years about a Katrina-like disaster. “We can save Louisiana. It is very doable.”

    1. ambrit

      It is a sad commentary on our academia when someone like Van Heerden can come to such an ignominious end. Since he made those prototypical scientific pronouncements, the man has been villified and driven out of LSU. See the wiki article about Van Heerden to get all the gory details. I particularly liked the quote from Cobb, adjunct professor at Tulane’s School of Law about the fracas: “Academic freedom and intellectual integrity are, at LSU, like two distant cousins who haven’t spoken to each other in many, many years.”

      van Heerden

  9. Lambert Strether

    Shorter: The Corps is a “self-licking ice cream cone.” That is the syndrome here:

    the Corps regards “failure as a growth opportunity.” One clue as to why it continues to operate this way is that it suffers no penalty for getting things wrong, even big things very wrong. To borrow a description the State Department once gave about Afghanistan, and its failure to overcome corruption, the Corps exists in a “culture of impunity”.

  10. William Neil

    Thanks to Bill Wolfe, who sent it to me, there is a powerful post Sandy image of the main street in Sea Bright New Jersey, the community which I referred to several times in my comments. It is here at the Star Ledger at


    You can see the sand covered Sea Wall at the right of the picture. When you drove on the road mentioned here, you had the sense that you were well below sea level along with most of the town, which is wildly defiant or foolhardy, depending on your point of view.

    So, taxpayers, and I do mean national taxpayers, here’s what you will be defending if it all gets put back “just as before.” That’s Gov. Christie’s stance as of now, but there will be legislative oversight hearings and the Democratic Senator Sweeney referred to above as sounding a reasonable retreat strategy, was a leader in calling for them.

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