Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Injustice of Atlantic City’s Floods

New Jersey's working class are forgotten as federal government funds fixes for wealthier neighbors.

Eileen DeDomenicis on the patio of her home on Arizona Avenue as a high tide and rain cause flooding in parts of Atlantic City. (Credit: Ted Blanco/Climate Central) Click to Enlarge.
[T]he U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is spending tens of millions of dollars building a seawall to reduce storm surge and flooding risks for Atlantic City’s downtown and its towering casinos, five of which have closed in the past four years.  A few miles in the other direction, it’s preparing to spend tens of millions more on sand dunes to protect million-dollar oceanfront homes.

But the federal government has done little to protect the residents of Arizona Avenue, or the millions of other working class and poor Americans who live near bays up and down the East Coast, from a worsening flooding crisis.  Seas are rising as pollution from fossil fuel burning, forest losses and farming fuels global warming, melting ice and expanding ocean water.  With municipal budgets stretched thin, lower-income neighborhoods built on low-lying land are enduring some of the worst impacts.

Climate Central scientists analyzed hundreds of coastal American cities and, in 90 of them, projected rapid escalation in the number of roads and homes facing routine inundation.  The flooding can destroy vehicles, damage homes, block roads and freeways, hamper emergency operations, foster disease spread by mosquitoes, and cause profound inconveniences for coastal communities.

Atlantic City is among those facing the greatest risks, yet much of the high-value property that the Army Corps is working to protect was built on a higher elevation and faces less frequent flooding than neighborhoods occupied by working class and unemployed residents — an increasing number of whom are living in poverty.

Low walls called bulkheads built along Atlantic City’s shores to block floods have washed away, or were never built in the first place.  Flap valves in aging storm drains have stopped working, allowing water to flow backward from the bay into the street when tides are high.  At high tide, stormwater pools in Arizona Avenue, unable to drain to the bay.  The flooding is getting worse because seas have been rising along the mid-Atlantic coast faster than in most other regions, and the land here is sinking because of groundwater pumping and natural processes.  High tides in Atlantic City reach more than a foot higher than they did a century ago and sea level rise is accelerating.

Read more at The Injustice of Atlantic City’s Floods

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