Nov 12 2012

A Few Good Reads (11/12/12): Flooding in Venice and the Recovery from Sandy Continues

This week: Flooding in Venice, pictures of the recovery from Sandy, New Jersey’s aging infrastructure, engineers’ warnings to the region in 2009, protecting NY City before next time, the “Salter Sink,” and the benefits of healthy rivers.

Venice Floods: Lagoon City Under Water (Sky News)

Heavy rain and strong winds have led to 70% of Venice being flooded, while some 200 people were evacuated from their homes in Tuscany because of severe weather.

Authorities said sea levels in the lagoon city reached a peak of 5ft (1.5 metres) above normal before receding slightly.

This marked the sixth-highest level since records began in 1872, Italian news agency ANSA said.

Moveable barriers that would rise from the sea bed to protect Venice from high tides have been in the works for years but will not be operational before 2014.

Hurricane Sandy: Recovery (The Big Picture)

The toll of the storm is staggering, including a rampaging fire that reduced more than 100 houses to ash in Breezy Point, Queens. New Jersey took the brunt, officials estimating that the state suffered many billions of dollars in property damage.

New Jersey’s Aging Infrastructure No Match for Superstorm (NJ Spotlight)

Where the money is going to come from to finance that effort remains unknown. For years, the state has ignored investing in its infrastructure, a failure the American Society of Civil Engineers said in a2009 study left New Jersey in a sorry state when it comes to maintaining important public services.

That study found that 36 percent of New Jersey’s bridges were structurally deficient; the state had 213 high-hazard dams, meaning a failure could lead to a significant loss of life; and 78 percent of New Jersey’s roads were in either poor or mediocre condition. The state also needed to invest nearly $7 billion over the next two decades to meet its drinking water needs, and another $9 billion upgrading wastewater treatment plants, according to the study.

Engineers’ Warnings in 2009 Detailed Storm Surge Threat to the Region (NY Times)

Participants in the 2009 seminar called on officials to seriously consider whether to install surge barriers or tide gates in New York Harbor to protect the city. Their views are contained in 300 pages of technical papers, historical studies and engineering designs from the seminar, copies of which the society provided to The New York Times.

Any effort to install such barriers would be extremely costly and take many years to carry out.

Even if the government had embraced such a proposal in 2009, it would not have been in place to prevent destruction from Tropical Storm Irene last year or Hurricane Sandy last week.

Protecting the City, Before Next Time (NY Times)

But some experts in the field who have thought deeply about how to protect New York from huge storms like Hurricane Sandy — and especially from the coastal surges they produce — suggested that less intrusive forms of so-called soft infrastructure might prove more effective in sheltering the city than mammoth Venetian sea walls. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg seemed to agree with them on Thursday when he said: “I don’t think there’s any practical way to build barriers in the oceans. Even if you spent a fortune, it’s not clear to me that you would get much value for it.

The man who would stop hurricanes with car tyres (The Guardian)

According to Salter, who has written to the government’s chief scientific officer setting out his scheme, harnessing energy from the waves to cool the surface temperature of the ocean makes ecological sense. The naturally working pumps would be located in "hurricane alley", the warm corridor in the Atlantic through which the most damaging storms typically develop and pass.

Why Do We Need Healthy Rivers? (American Rivers)

Going fishing may feel like taking the day off, but its overall economic impact in the U.S. is estimated at $116 billion. And consider the fact that more people fish in the United States than go to Disneyworld. 

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