Hoboken, New Jersey Takes a Serious Approach to Climate Change

Blaine Badick and her fiancee Andrew Grapsas, Hoboken. Credit: CNN
(3BL Media and Just Means) - Do Americans really believe that by the end of the 21st century five million of us could be living underwater? According to Climate Central, a scientific non-profit which researches the impact of climate change on the American public, by the end of this century sea levels will have risen anywhere between 20 to 80 inches.  And though that's a huge gap in estimation, rising sea levels all mean the same thing for coastal communities: flooding. In a 2012 publication called Surging Seas, Climate Central reported that global warming triples the odds of major, history-breaking flooding.  They also state that eight of the top ten most exposed cities in the US are in Florida. This comes as no surprise, albeit I don't think the risk of major flooding is crossing the minds of my fellow South Floridians as they lay on the beach.  However, it is on the forefront of a city that has recently experienced the cost and devastation of flooding.

Hoboken, New Jersey: It is impossible to forget the faces and the stories of the city's residents as they helped one another clean up the wreckage of their homes after Hurricane Sandy. This super storm cost the city $110 million in property damage and hundreds of millions in damage to their transit systems.  The cost of this damage—and the four floods since Sandy—continues to take its toll on Hoboken, and the city has determined to prevent this from happening again. Led by Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a member of President Obama's Climate Change Task Force, Hoboken has designed a Resiliency and Readiness Plan.  In an interview with NPR Zimmer said, "This is the number one priority for me, as the mayor of Hoboken. This is the biggest challenge that our city is facing. We are living with this now and we need to figure out a way to live with water."

Zimmer's plan includes investment into flood pumps and flood barriers, storm water management, back-up generators and public safety training. To me, one of the most interesting prevention pieces is their plan for rain, garden, curb extensions.  These rain gardens will help control heavy rains by absorbing storm water runoff. Hoboken also plans to use these gardens as a way to educate the public about rising sea levels and hurricane preparedness.

To fund the Resiliency and Readiness Plan, Hoboken is seeking financial support from FEMA. They have also applied to the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge which would award them $1 million and the support of the Rockefeller Foundation.  With funding from Together New Jersey and the Re. Invest Initiative, the city has already begun to move forward with some of their storm water and flood control strategies.  

"We have an opportunity that was impossible for other species. I'm sure that if the dinosaur could have predicted ... the ice age coming and observed it, and developed a plan, they would have done that. But they couldn't do that. We can do this. We can adapt. And we must adapt. We see it in Hoboken and Weehawken and Jersey City," Zimmer told NPR.

Sources: Climate Central, National Public Radio, City of Hoboken, 100 Resilient Cities, The Rockefeller Foundation 

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