In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, coastal cities continue their long-term preparations for tropical storms and hurricanes that often threaten to cause major flooding along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard. Some cities have proposed large civil engineering projects to build dikes or reinforce storm drain systems. In Maryland, policy makers at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have taken a different approach. They see natural defenses as the best investment.
As reported in the Washington Post, Maryland has already begun purchasing wetlands and marshes that will provide buffers against surging storm water. Zoë Johnson of the Department of Natural Resources spoke with the Washington Post,
Johnson is skeptical of big engineering proposals — such as a dam at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay — to ward off disasters. She favors using natural defenses, as does the Nature Conservancy, which has helped restore the beach and meadows at New Jersey’s South Cape May Meadow. While Sandy made landfall near the preserve, the area fared much better than other parts of the state, just as it did during Hurricane Irene.
This strategy is based on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s data analysis products, which they have employed through cooperation with local governments in an effort to increase state and local government capacity to adapt and respond to hazards like hurricanes. As described by DNR,
One of these products was the Worcester County Sea-Level Rise Inundation Model, developed cooperatively between DNR, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Worcester County in 2004.