Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Survey: Great Lakes, St. Lawrence communities to spend $2B combating coastal damages

Great Lakes Basin From SpaceA survey of 241 cities, villages and other jurisdictions along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River shows that coastal damage from climate change will cost at least $1.94 billion over the next five years, with shoreline communities having already spent $878 million over the past two years. These figures only represent a fraction of the true need as not all shoreline jurisdictions are reflected in this figure.

“While water levels in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin are naturally variable with cyclical highs and lows, climate change is exacerbating these fluctuations, with water levels reaching record highs in recent years,” said Mayor Walter Sendzik, Chair of the Cities Initiative. “High water levels, paired with severe storm events and wave action, are leading to greater erosion and flooding that threaten public and private properties, critical infrastructure, and recreation and tourism amenities in shoreline communities.”

This new information illustrates the scope and magnitude of climate impacts on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and the need for increased federal assistance for coastal communities struggling to respond to threats to critical infrastructure and assets along their shorelines. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, along with other regional organizations, are calling for funding in an upcoming infrastructure package to enable Great Lakes states and local governments to prepare for, respond to, and build resilience to current and future impacts from high lake levels and severe weather events.

“Communities around the Great Lakes face a growing crisis, and we need both the Federal Governments of the U.S. and Canada to assist with the necessary investments,” said Mayor Tom Barrett, Mayor of Milwaukee, WI. “Our coastal infrastructure is vital to the economic and recreational health of our communities, and coordinated action is required.”

The eight Great Lakes states have over 4,500 miles of shoreline, nearly as much as all the states bordering on the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and west coasts combined. A substantial, targeted investment in coastal resilience in the Great Lakes is warranted and will generate substantial benefits for the environmental and economic health of shoreline communities in the region.

Survey Findings

Top Concerns and Priorities

  • More than 95% of respondents were highly or moderately concerned about coastal issues facing their community.
  • More than 80% of respondents reported water level and flooding forecasts to be very important to their jurisdiction’s work on coastal planning.

Resources and Support

  • U.S. and Canadian survey respondents indicated a combined financial need of $1.94 billion USD over the next five years to respond to coastal challenges.
  • Over the past two years, respondents indicated spending $878 million USD to respond to coastal challenges.
  • Only 27% of jurisdictions rated their staff as being highly knowledgeable of coastal issues, and only 11% reported having a high level of capacity to respond to such issues.
  • Funding for mitigation projects and planning is a high priority for communities; however, existing funding opportunities do not meet this need for most communities to respond to coastal issues.
  • Communities noted support from state and federal agencies as very important to their efforts to respond to coastal issues; however, current support is not meeting the needs of coastal communities.

The Coastal Resilience Needs Assessment Survey was completed in partnership with the University of Illinois Applied Research Institute and collected information from March through May 2021. The survey received nearly 300 responses from 241 jurisdictions across all eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

About The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of over 120 U.S. and Canadian mayors and local officials working to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. The Cities Initiative and local officials integrate environmental, economic and social agendas to sustain a resource that represents approximately 80% of North America’s surface freshwater supply, provides drinking water for 40 million people, and is the foundation upon which a strong regional economy is based.

Related Stories

Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com.

3 Responses

  1. nathan says:

    with increasing damages from weather fluctuations, would spending the money to buy and remove structures, make strong effort to limit any building in questionable areas or eliminate…to constantly keep building way to stop weather and then it gets overwhelmed repeatedly..for example i knew of a family who ought home in a 100 year flood zone….but down stream a town had built walls and levies to reduce flooding there, so water flowed slower and upstream flooding became much worse..the family was flooded 4 times in 8 years, with each flood being $40,000 to 100,000 each time. new kitchens, utilities such as furnaces, water heaters, walls, insulation. so in 8 years the house had around $320,000 in flood repairs for a $400,000 house at the time….and thats just one house out of entire area….what sense does it make to keep rebuilding at huge costs, just buy/remove structures and forbid any developement. It is pointless to keep du,ping money into a hole, just fill the hole once. flooding along the mississipi same story, all new construction had to have houses on stilts or pile dirt up so many feet. flooded houses should be removed or raised if feasable. not rebuild every 4-5 years or less.

  2. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “the family was flooded 4 times in 8 years, with each flood being $40,000 to 100,000 each time.”

    Must be nice to have that kind of money! To try to buy our way out of what evidently is a lost cause. We shouldn’t be building in many places but we do. After all what does it matter to a developer! Look at what it cost many homeowners in California, all of those luxurious (expensive) homes up in flames. A developer got rich and many people lost every ‘thing’ they owned. If those lawmakers in California had any forethought they wouldn’t have allowed those beautiful forests to be bulldozed over. I suppose the mindset is changing now though what with the earth cooking the way it is. I mean who, in their right mind, is going to build, or buy, next to a river!

    • nathan says:

      the repairs were by flood insurance, not owners. and the point was that flood insurance should not keep repairing same places over and over, but buy out once and remove building. the owners tried desperately to sell house but could not because of the flooding issues, and was stuck with house and finally sold it…im sure new owners are enjoying there yearly swim in living room

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