Spring is here. And with summer fast approaching, some shore towns are feeling pressure to get their beaches ready for vacationers — and the sooner, the better. Some New Jersey beaches took a beating in last winter's storms, and local leaders say it's time to get started on repairing the damage.
The Philadelphia Inquirer covers the story here (see: "Shore towns rush to replenish beaches for summer," by Jacqueline L. Urgo). "Up and down the New Jersey coastline, where the local economy depends on the popularity of a beach town with summer visitors, officials say the only numbers that matter this time of the year involve cubic yards - as in the amount of sand on their beachfronts," the paper reported. "Tourism in New Jersey is a $42-billion-a-year enterprise that employs more than 300,000 people and accounts for more than 6 percent of all jobs, according to the Department of Labor. In Cape May County alone, visitor spending topped out at $5.79 billion in 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available. 'The beach is our lifeblood . . . and the sand is key to that,' said North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello, who is among mayors, administrators, public works officials, and others keeping a close eye on how much work is needed to ready the strands for summer.'
Shoreline erosion is imperiling more than tourism, however: it's also a risk to the nation's space program, according to a report in the New York Times (see: "NASA Is Facing a Climate Change Countdown," by John Schwarz). At "America’s busiest spaceport," the Times reported, "the water is coming. Like so much of Florida, the Space Coast — a 72-mile stretch along the Atlantic — is feeling the threat of climate change. Some of the erosion is caused by the churning energy of ocean currents along the coastline. Hurricane Sandy, whose power was almost certainly strengthened by climate change, took a big bite in 2012, flattening an already damaged dune line that provided protection from the Atlantic’s battering. A rising sea level will bring even greater risk over time — and perhaps sooner than most researchers expected."
NASA has been assessing the risk for years, and is planning for adaptation, the Times reported. "As climate change threatens, NASA has options that include hardening facilities against the rising seas with barriers and structures adapted to storms and flooding, or if adaptation is not possible, to strategically retreat," the report says. "Any such strategies will be expensive — though how expensive at this early stage is anyone’s guess. Retreat, however, is hardly an option any time soon for an agency that would need billions of dollars for new buildings and equipment alone — not to mention the need to relocate staff with extensive expertise."