Why Jersey *Shouldn’t* Rebuild the Shore After Sandy

Today in contrarianism: The Atlantic Cities has a post up by Columbia researcher Klaus Jacob arguing that trying to rebuild the Jersey Shore is a terrible idea. Trying to construct wildly expensive storm-resilient or storm-accommodating shorelines, as New York and New Jersey are trying to do, requires funding both states probably don’t have. Same goes for regular folks.

For individual homeowners, the options are bleak. The cost to accommodate, to raise a structure—if that’s even technically possible—normally far exceeds insurance claims. But to not raise it or otherwise adapt means increasing insurance premiums by factors of five or more, making flood insurance simply unaffordable for many (though it is mandatory for mortgage holders). Selling is not a viable option either, since many home prices have plummeted below half the original cost. Owners can become trapped with foreclosure as the only option—which is why governments need to take a leading role in developing other, more feasible, options.

Instead of rebuilding, he says, it’s better to “retreat.” New construction should be disallowed in low-lying areas, and the rebuilding effort should take place on safer ground.

The benefits of rebuilding more resiliently and at safer grounds can catalyze the modernization of what, for many municipalities, has become antiquated infrastructure. Subways, other mass transit systems, and road tunnels should be reconsidered before they become victims to ever more frequent saltwater flooding.

One can imagine that Chris Christie will have no part of this argument. Just today, in Seaside Park, at a press conference about the raging fire that blazed there yesterday, he said he wouldn’t let that tragedy “destroy the efforts we have made in the 10 months” since Sandy. [Atlantic Cities]