Resilience in a coastal context
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Consultant Janine Witko said existing infrastructure, consisting of a separate sewer system and waste water system, did not have enough capacity to adequately accommodate all the types of flooding which occur along the south shore of Nassau County. “There are four types of flooding events – tidal fluctuations, sea level rise, surface runoff from rain and storms, and storm surge when there are extreme flooding events.”
During Sandy “we had the convergence of four events. The storm surge was ten feet; it was high tide. There is the issue of sea level rise and surface flooding with a lack of drainage,” she said.
Although there is no one solution, Ms.Witko said the region could consider storm sewer upgrades including tidal gates and check valves, as well as building new bulkheads, sea walls, and flood barriers. “But you need to consider the costs and ecology. The water has to go some place.”
Instead, green infrastructure and working with natural resources might provide a more eco-friendly approach to mitigation although these are considered more long term solutions that must be implemented on a regional level. “You must look at the entire watershed,” said the Arup consultant. Furthermore, these approaches have “their own set of challenges including interagency coordination to implement them and a shift in how municipalities operate. You also need to educate municipalities and people and get homeowners to participate.”
For example, in order to improve water quality and address storm water run off, more permeable paving systems could be put in place. Green infrastructure solutions also include creating stormwater ponds to capture rainwater in our parks. Bioswales – landscaped elements including plants and trees designed to remove silt and pollution – along our streets and highways and in public spaces can also improve water quality and deter flooding.
“Many green infrastructure projects can be latched on to capital improvement projects,” said the Arup consultant.