Barrier beaches need to move with nature--for reasons including protecting the mainland--and not be tailored to suit real estate interests. A pioneer in the science of beaches is Dr. Orrin Pilkey, long-time professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Duke University and founder and director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University.
As Pilkey and Wallace Kaufman wrote in their 1979 book, The Beaches Are Moving, The Drowning of America's Shoreline, "The beach is land which has given itself up to wind and wave. Every day throughout the life of the earth, the wind and the waves have been at work shaping and reshaping the beach, pushing and pulling almost microscopic grains of sand and sometimes boulders larger than cars.....We ignore this when we built motels, pavilions, boardwalks, and even whole towns on the edge of the ocean".Beaches are not stable, but they are in dynamic equilibrium."
And as Pilkey and Katharine L. Dixon wrote in their 1994 book, The Corps and the Shore, neither "hard stabilization" or "soft stabilization" of beaches make sense. "Armoring" a beach with stone "groins"destroys the beach. A "groin" will catch some sand and for a time protect a piece of beach, but it does that by blocking sand moving in the ocean's littoral drift to another beach. As to "soft stabilization"--dumping sand or "beach replenishment"--it is "always expensive and always temporary."
Then there's undergrounding of electric lines.
In 1991, East Hampton Natural Resources Director Larry Penny called for putting underground the electric lines running along the eight-mile Napeague stretch between Amagansett and Montauk at the eastern tip of the South Fork of Long Island. Many of the poles holding them had gone down that year in Hurricane Bob and the "Perfect Storm." The Long Island Lighting Company agreed to his request. Although the Napeague stretch was severely battered by Sandy, electricity in most of Montauk stayed on. "They say undergrounding is expensive," said Penny. "But in the long run, you save a lot of money in tree-trimming, repairs after a storm and economic disruption--the power doesn't go out."
And most critically, Sandy underscored a lethal threat involving nuclear power plants on the coast. It impacted several including Oyster Creek in New Jersey where the storm surge from Sandy nearly overwhelmed critical cooling systems, including one maintaining its pool of thousands of hotly radioactive spent fuel rods. Oyster Creek is 70 miles south of New York City. Could a future "superstorm" set off an American Fukushima-like disaster?
As for the Long Island Power Authority, it was created in 1985 to replace LILCO as a democratically-based public power entity. (LILCO also failed miserably to restore electricity after Hurricane Bob of that year.) The members of the LIPA board were to be elected and this, it was seen, would provide for accountability, with Long Islanders determining, democratically, how their utility functioned, and would provide, too, for Long Island's energy future to be planned democratically.
Instead, then New York Governor Mario Cuomo, after LIPA was established, postponed elections to its board and his successor, Governor George Pataki, formally eliminated having LIPA elections.
LIPA board members ended up being selected by New York State government's heralded "three-men-in-a-room"--the governor, State Assembly speaker and State Senate leader. (The three-men-in-a-room appellation relates how many decisions are made by New York State government.) LIPA's current chairman and most of its members have no background in energy issues.
Sandy and the way LIPA has handled it cry out for LIPA returning to its original democratic vision--so it can truly be the peoples' utility. " Shame on LIPA. Shame on its Board of Directors. No Lights, No Heat. No End in Sight," said the placard yesterday. Through a democratic process, far more could be done than simply declaring, "Shame on LIPA. Shame on its Board of Directors"--although this must now be said. If, as originally envisioned, the trustee positions at LIPA were subject to a vote by Long Islanders, people could take decisive action and make changes so clearly necessary at LIPA in the wake of Sandy.
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