University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

News Journal: What heartbreak in New Jersey should mean for Delaware

Engineers armored New Jersey beaches to hold back the ocean, giving residents a sanguine feeling behind one of the most hardened shoreline defenses in America.

But Superstorm Sandy washed over Jersey’s sea walls and bulkheads, smashed its man-made dunes and tore through beaches that over the years have been nourished with millions of cubic yards of sand pumped on shore and smoothed to perfection along the state’s storied boardwalks.

In spite of warnings from scientists that coasts from North Carolina to Boston will witness sea-level rise at twice the rate of most places on the planet, New Jersey is determined to rebuild many of the homes and businesses savaged by the monster storm that hit on Oct. 29.

“We’re really going to be focusing on our business district and rebuilding it in such a way that it will withstand the next hurricane,” said Dina Long, mayor of Sea Bright.

Political leaders from Gov. Chris Christie to state and federal lawmakers, and many homeowners and business leaders, share her sentiment. Sea Bright – whose business district suffered a devastating loss – is joining “a national conversation” about preserving a way of life along America’s coastlines, Long said.

But scientists contend that building storm-resilient beach communities is getting more difficult because climate change is pushing sea levels higher, increasing the risk of more violent storms.