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Coastal Flooding: Book Reviews

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It was just a short week ago that we began reporting on what would become historic rains and flooding in the Pacific Northwest. Of course, it's been a really long week if you're standing in water. (apologies in advance for the puns) As a native of the Pacific Northwest with many friends in the area, my Facebook feed has been inundated with photos of water where water is not supposed to be. Our own John Pennington, Snohomish County Director of Emergency Management, hasn't been able to get his head above water for the past few days to contribute to the blog. And the reports keep flooding in that indicate the rain won't be over for another few days at best. (ok, I'll quit)

The rain, of course, will end. Two or three weeks later, the floodwaters will process through the area and the flooding will recede. Cleanup will begin, roads will be repaired, and life will return to normal. Maybe a slightly different normal, but as we have a human need for normality and stability, we will define whatever state we achieve as being 'normal.'

However, as the old saying goes: "When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's difficult to remember that your original intent was to drain the swamp." Those who deal with public safety will be busy for awhile. Once that stage ends, though, it will be time to reflect on the lessons, evaluate our planning, and improve our processes. Here are some resources that may help.

Book Reviews

High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis

John Englander (2013) acquaints us with a few unpleasant truths. For example, now that we have set sea level rise in motion, it's likely to continue for a thousand years or so. Significant impacts will be felt by 2050, particularly in places such as Miami and New York. The impacts will not be limited to the coasts, however--impacts will be felt far upstream. After explaining the coming impacts, the author explores the concept of 'intelligent adaptation'--skills which will be necessary for our coastal regions to survive.

Coastal Risk Management in a Changing Climate

This edited collection by Zanuttigh, Nicholls, Vanderlinden, Thompson, and Burcharth (2014), examines the gamut of coming threats to our coastlines and low-lying regions. Risk assessment tools appropriate to coastal planning are examined, and the collection evaluates eight sites across Europe. Europe is ahead of the US in this type of evaluation and management, so there is much to learn.

Design for Flooding: Architecture, Landscape, and Urban Design for Resilience to Climate Change

Watson--an architect & planner; and Adams--a water resources engineer (2010) provide an overview of the science and engineering that applies to coastal and floodplain management, followed by a study of the impacts of climate change on Boston, provision of a design charrette that can be used to enable creative design in waterfront revitalization and flood protection, and case studies from several countries that illustrate the concepts.

Planning for Coastal Resilience: Best Practices for Calamitous Times

Beatley (2009) examines the concept of 'resilience'--in other words, if mitigation is impractical and adaptation is expensive, it still may be possible to improve the ability to withstand future impacts by building resiliency. Resiliency includes engineering concepts such as redundancy of utilities, but also explores community, and what it takes to enable a community to survive and thrive in crisis situations. 'Resilience profiles' are explored as a tool for practical implementation of the concepts.

Adaptation Costs of Rising Sea Levels and Storm Flooding: An Economic Framework for Coastal Communities

Patterson (2014) talks money. Ultimately, whether or not any mitigation and adaptation plan will be successful will depend on the numbers. The cost of building a seawall around Miami may be horrific--but how does that compare with moving Miami? What happens when the airports in Boston, New York and New Jersey start having water lapping around the edges? These are not considerations that will be able to be ignored for much longer. So let's not.

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.