As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by tulianr, Nov 19, 2012.

  1. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. — Even in the off season, the pastel beach houses lining a skinny strip of sand here are a testament to the good life.


    They are also a monument to the generosity of the federal government.

    The western end of this Gulf Coast island has proved to be one of the most hazardous places in the country for waterfront property. Since 1979, nearly a dozen hurricanes and large storms have rolled in and knocked down houses, chewed up sewers and water pipes and hurled sand onto the roads.

    Yet time and again, checks from Washington have allowed the town to put itself back together.

    Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.

    Like many other beachfront towns, Dauphin Island has benefited from the Stafford Act, a federal law that taps the United States Treasury for 75 percent or more of the cost of fixing storm-damaged infrastructure, like roads and utilities.

    At least $80 million, adjusted for inflation, has gone into patching up this one island since 1979 — more than $60,000 for every permanent resident. That does not include payments of $72 million to homeowners from the highly subsidized federal flood insurance program.
    Lately, scientists, budget-conscious lawmakers and advocacy groups across the political spectrum have argued that these subsidies waste money, put lives at risk and make no sense in an era of changing climate and rising seas.

    A coalition in Washington called, made up of environmentalists, libertarians and budget watchdogs, contends that the subsidies have essentially become a destructive, unaffordable entitlement.

    “We simply can’t go on subsidizing enormous numbers of people to live in areas that are prone to huge natural disasters,” said Eli Lehrer, the president of the conservative R Street Institute, part of the coalition.

    Under the law, the federal government committed more than $80 billion to disaster recovery from 2004 to 2011, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. While billions of dollars went to relieve immediate suffering, including cash payments to families left homeless by storms, nearly half of the money was spent helping state and local governments clean and restore damaged areas and rebuild infrastructure.

    At times, local governments have tried to use the money to reduce their vulnerability to future disasters, but they complain that they often run into bureaucratic roadblocks with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    W. Craig Fugate, the agency’s administrator, acknowledged in an interview that “as a nation, we have not yet figured out” how to use federal incentives to improve resiliency and discourage excessive risks.

    If private property owners want to assume the risks, “that’s one thing,” he said. “But if we find that we as taxpayers are assuming that risk without benefit, then we need to rethink that.”


    Dauphin Island is a case study in the way the federal subsidies have enabled repetitive risk taking. Orrin H. Pilkey, an emeritus professor at Duke University who is renowned for his research in costal zones, described the situation here as a “scandal.”

    The island, four miles off the Alabama coast, was for centuries the site of a small fishing and farming village reachable only by boat. But in the 1950s, the Chamber of Commerce in nearby Mobile decided to link it to the mainland by bridge and sell lots for vacation homes.
    Then Hurricane Frederic struck in 1979, ravaging the island and destroying the bridge.

    President Jimmy Carter flew over to inspect the damage. Rex Rainer, the Alabama highway director at the time, recalled several years later that the president “told us to build everything back just like it was and send him the bill.”

    The era of taxpayer largess toward Dauphin Island had begun. With $33 million of federal money, local leaders built a fancier, higher bridge that encouraged more development in the 1980s. Much of that construction occurred on the island’s western end, a long, narrow sand bar sitting only a few feet above the Gulf of Mexico.

    On Dauphin Island and in many other beachfront communities, the federal subsidies have helped people replace small beach shacks with larger, more valuable homes. That is a main reason the nation’s costs of storm recovery are roughly doubling every decade, even after adjusting for inflation.
    As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why -
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    chelloveck likes this.
  2. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    And it's not just coastal areas. The more we demand from the Federal Government, the more we willingly enslave ourselves.

    Left with tornado damage, Ala town blaming FEMA

    CORDOVA, Ala. (AP) - Main Street in this old mill town looks about the same as it did the day after tornadoes killed about 250 people across Alabama a year and a half ago: Battered red bricks and broken glass litter the pavement, and the buildings still standing are rickety and roofless.

    The entire one-block downtown, still deemed unsafe, remains sealed off by a chain-link fence. City officials blame the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying the money to demolish skeletons of the old buildings is mired in miles of red tape.

    When one request for photos or historical documentation is met, FEMA makes another, the mayor and others in this town of 2,100 say. One crop of workers is replaced by another, forcing locals to constantly explain their problems to new people.

    "It's very frustrating," said Mayor Drew Gilbert, a 25-year-old Cordova native who served on the City Council before taking office this month. "You would think it's been touched and seen now by everyone who needs to touch and see it."


    On April 27, 2011, dozens of tornadoes ripped across the southeast, spawned by freakish weather. Hundreds were killed and thousands of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, causing more than $1 billion in damage.

    While cleanup and demolition projects are moving along in devastated communities like Tuscaloosa and Hackleburg - where wrecked homes and businesses are mostly gone and new ones are slowly being built - Cordova's downtown stands out as an eerie reminder of the destruction.

    Cordova Fire Chief Dean Harbison, who also serves as the town's recovery coordinator, said FEMA was helpful at first.

    "They've provided us some money," Harbison said. "But as far as recovery, they've slowed us down."

    My Way News - Left with tornado damage, Ala town blaming FEMA
  3. TXKajun

    TXKajun Monkey+++

    How many times have homes along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers flooded multiple times? And been rebuilt. And rebuilt. Nutso behavior. Yeah, I can talk, too cuz I used to live in Galveston, TX (remember Ike? We had moved a few years before it hit.) My brother used to live in Galveston, too, until Ike....his townhome burned to the ground in the middle of a hurricane. He was smart enough to get out.

    tulianr likes this.
  4. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    You know, we could solve three problems at once, with a little thought..........New Orleans is below sea-level, and Florida is over run it seems with Alligators, while illegals stream over our southern border in ever increasing numbers........WHAT IF, we dig a ditch along that southern border from coast to coast (fenced at the ends) filled it with the alligators from Florida, and used the dirt we dug to fill in New Orleans? A better use of OUR money, don't you think?[fixedthanks]
    scrapman21009, ditch witch and BTPost like this.
  5. ditch witch

    ditch witch I do stupid crap, so you don't have to

    I have an aunt who lives somewhere along the North Carolina coastline. When she and her husband built their house, they had it built to withstand pretty much everything but a direct hit from a meteor and be minimally affected by water damage. They've been through several hurricanes now and come through almost unscathed.

    Their neighbors, not so much.
    tulianr likes this.
  6. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    I spent quite a few years over on the North Carolina coast, and I would watch year after year as the tropical storms and hurricanes demolished homes on the barrier islands. The people would be on the evening news, bemoaning the loss of their beautiful homes, lamenting that they had just rebuilt or re-roofed after the last storm, and now they had lost everything. You feel sorry for these folks of course, but I couldn't help but scream at the television set, "What do you think BARRIER ISLAND means!?"

    I feel sorry for anyone who loses their home, animals, or family members in a natural disaster; but folks ought to put some thought into where and how they build (like ditch witch's family did); and it shouldn't be the taxpayers' responsibility to bail them out when disaster strikes.

    There are some places where towns should not exist, like on a barrier island (or like twenty two feet below sea level, surrounded on three sides by water), and there are places where people should not build houses. If people want to live in these places, more power to them; but tax dollars should not be used to pick up the pieces when the inevitable happens.
    gunbunny, kellory and ditch witch like this.
  7. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    It seems like they should just bulldoze the 4th side and turn it into the lake that it ought to have been all the time.
  8. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    I have a place on my property that is a low lying area, with a creek running through it, it stays wet and marshy all the time. I had a guy out a couple of months ago to look at the practicality of putting in a pond there. He laughed when he saw the area and said, "I've never seen a place trying so hard to be a pond in all my life."

    That's what I think when I look at New Orleans. Fighting Mother Nature is a losing battle. She'll win in the end. If I had to live there, I'd be thinking "houseboat."
    chelloveck likes this.
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