The Dune Wars

categories: Cocktail Hour

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From my latest OnEarth “Wild Life” blog post:

Today, support for dune construction in the Garden State is nearly universal. Governor Chris Christie wants to line the state’s shores with dunes, as if Jersey were some sort of medieval castle. But if it’s any kind of castle, it should be pointed out, it’s a sand castle. And that, says Orrin Pilkey, is the chief problem with dunes. As he regularly points out, they can and will be broached, and we should never be fooled into believing that these ever-shifting mounds of sand are impermeable.

Which is not, he assures, an argument against building them in the first place. By all means, Orrin says, do so. Dunes definitely help—but, in the end, they’re not enough. They represent a stopgap measure that is not accurately seen as a stopgap, a non-solution that is presented as an actual one. The real problem, he says, is that the surges associated with any decently sized storm will be able to best any defense you might be able to construct, and then—once it has done so—leave communities more vulnerable. The real problem is that the elevation on most of these islands is barely above sea level. The real problem is that too many people live on what are, essentially, frail and migrating scraps of sand. The real problem is that on barrier islands, firm ground is not available ground.

And these are facts you can’t conceal—no matter how high you build your dunes

 Read more here.


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