Hurricane Sandy struck coastal areas in the New York/New Jersey area on October 29, 2012. Hurricane Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane in United States history and there were at least 75 direct deaths in eight states. During the onslaught, damaged and overwhelmed wastewater infrastructure released eleven billion gallons of untreated and partially treated sewage.

Rockaways Sandy

In response to Sandy, Congress passed a massive aid package ($50.5 billion) that included $3.46 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild beaches along the coast. Robert S. Young PhD, Director, Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Western Carolina University, had this to say about the Corps money:

“Since about the 1930s we’ve spent around $1 billion total on all of the beach building projects in New Jersey….So that’s $1 billion in 2012 dollars to rebuild all of the beaches through the last several decades in New Jersey. So actually, $3.5 billion is a huge amount of money. I mean, they can rebuild every beach from Delaware to Connecticut, and there’s going to be money left over. You know, I’d really like to know what they’re going to do with that money and it’s not spelled out in the authorization bill.”

In a world where increased sea level rise and storms are the new normal, the question remains – what are we willing to do differently to avoid this tragedy from happening again? Can we create resilient coasts?

For our part responding to Sandy, Surfrider has: joined national and local groups to try and ensure federal disaster relief money supports smart rebuilding and doesn’t provide a blank check to the Corps; joined a coalition of New Jersey environmental groups to put forth guiding principles for rebuilding in the aftermath of Sandy; testified on a package of response bills in the New Jersey legislature; been working on a project to rebuilding the boardwalk in Long Beach, NY; and have had a chapter activist appointed to the erosion control committee in East Hampton, NY.

Additionally, Surfrider hosted a workshop in Long Beach, New York with chapter activists, coastal experts, partners and other community activists. The goal of the workshop was to create a set of principles to guide local Surfrider chapters as they grapple with beach and community rebuilding efforts. These principles will form the basis for a regional campaign asking the public and coastal agencies to rethink how we live and use the coast. Read a blog post about the workshop written by Dr. Chad Nelson, Surfrider’s Environmental Director.

The next phase of federal response is through the Corps of Engineers, FEMA and other federal agencies and will be guided by something called the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF). This is a new process so the opportunities for public input are not clear yet.  Stay tuned!