The congressional response to recover from Hurricane Sandy included legislation for a comprehensive study to identify regional, systemic vulnerability of populations at risk along the north Atlantic coast.
High-magnitude storm events such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, as well as sea level rise and climate change, warrant thorough evaluation of measures to reduce flooding risk from tidally influenced storm surges and mitigate future storm damages. The study, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division spearheads, brings together experts from government, non-government organizations, academia and industry to develop a framework for mitigating coastal storm damage.
“With the government shutdown, essential midpoint progress and interagency coordination was delayed by several weeks,” said Joe Vietri, director of the National Planning Center for Coastal Storm Risk Management and lead of the study. “There are 50 people, working full time at any given moment, across several agencies, including the Corps.”
Currently, transition to Phase 2 is projected for the first quarter of 2014, between January and March. “Some of the milestones we had moving forward were key meetings and engagements,” said Roselle Henn, deputy director of the National Planning Center for Coastal Storm Risk Management, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Comprehensive Study has been as much about bringing together experts to examine solution sets and develop strategies as it has been engaging with stakeholders.
In Phase 1, experts began coordinating to assemble existing and future conditions; this was projected to take approximately 14 months. The assessments and products of this initial phase included: storm suite modeling, state-specific coastal risk frameworks, storm economic impact estimation tool, sea level rise and vulnerability assessments and maps, and identification of risk and preliminary approaches for system resilience.
“There has been tremendous interest in the Comprehensive Study,” Henn said. Leaders of the study have maintained communication and coordination with states and other stakeholders to ensure shared understanding of the study outcomes.
The study team also has involved the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council to develop a perspective on approaches for storm risk reduction along the Atlantic coast.
With the execution period of the second phase scheduled to last three months, the goals are to incorporate the significant involvement and progress developed in the first phase. Phase 2 will seek to validate the process and enhance collaboration. Products developed in the second phase will include alignment with other regional plans, solicitation and incorporation of interagency, partner and international comments, and additional analyses as warranted.
“Phase 2 has an additional product as an important outcome of the comprehensive study--discussion of institutional barriers, and additional analyses that may be warranted … those items were specifically flagged in the legislation as a part of the comprehensive study,” Henn said. “The third phase will be started in the fall and will be a process of getting final draft products up to headquarters and prepared for submission to Congress.”
Much of the process to submitting the final product to Congress in January 2015 is coordinating the final analyses with stakeholders, including the staff of the president’s administration, federal agencies, state and local governments, and in achieving consensus with the final product. Vietri emphasized the Comprehensive Study team’s bottom line, “Our job is to deliver this product. We’re going to deliver the product, and the product will be (to Congress) on time.”