Seaports Magazine - Summer 2014 - (Page 25)

» GUEST VIEWPOINT Superstorms and Rising Sea Level Present a New Challenge for Ports By Austin Howard Becker, Ph.D., and John Englander P orts have a special need to look ahead, assess their risks and begin adapting to climate change. Scientists project that events such as Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and Super Typhoon Haiyan could become more frequent as oceans warm. Much more certain, global sea levels will rise every decade as glaciers and ice sheets continue to melt, with significant impact by 2050, possibly raising water levels by as much as a couple of feet. Major storms, extreme tides and sea level rise can pile on top of each other. Planners must consider a worst-case scenario when sea levels are higher and a major storm hits at extreme tide. Though tides recede in hours and storm surge recedes in days, sea level will not go down for centuries. Like the proverbial tortoise that wins the race, rising seas will eventually have greater impact than the other two factors. Over the last hundred years, the global average sea level rose about eight inches, mostly due to thermal expansion as seawater warmed. (Locations vary widely due to local factors.) Geologists know that average ocean levels cycle up and down by about 350 feet roughly every hundred thousand years. Without even considering the worst-case scenarios, the latest projections show global average sea levels this century potentially rising as much as six feet, primarily due to the melting of glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet. Yesterday's sea levels and storm patterns served as the benchmark for designing most coastal infrastructure. We built ports based on historical conditions that changed little in the last few millennia. However, as environmental conditions change, many ports will find themselves exposed to rising risk levels. Ports already have strong incentives to build for resilience, as storms result in operational delays and huge costs from damage and cleanup. Worse yet, shippers forced to find alternate supply routes may never return. In our recent survey to which many AAPA members contributed, 80 percent of port operators said that the industry needs to address climate change challenges head on. Fundamentally, these challenges require those involved with ports and harbors to consider new planning time horizons. Often, five to 10 years constitutes long-term planning. Yet basic port infrastructure usually lasts a half century and longer. With the realization that environmental conditions in three or four decades will be quite different, the financial community is starting to ask questions about long-term coastal vulnerability, risk and the security for their debt. To get a good return on investment, planning today must look even beyond the finance and amortization period to the useful life. That applies not only to piers and terminals, but also to utilities, roads, rail and structures. Historically, ports considered storm resilience in a somewhat siloed manner: Engineers and consultants developed construction guidelines for structures, local Coast Guard or emergency management agencies worked with the port to ensure safe navigation and protection of lives, and ports and their tenants had their own storm preparation procedures designed to minimize damage. The emerging new reality warrants a more comprehensive, visionary approach to plan for long-term changes in sea level, which will surely exacerbate extreme tides and extraordinary storms. What can be done to build resilience? Interviews and case studies that we conducted have identified more than a hundred storm resilience strategies for ports. These ranged from changes to building codes and land use regulations, planning beyond 20 years, to better construction and designs for structures, to insurance policies and robust emergency response plans for individual tenants of the port. It is crucial that ports accurately assess and quantify their risks. We also need to do more research and build stronger networks between the various stakeholders. Port operators do not need to go it alone when it comes to building resilience. All stakeholders can invest in a common goal of a more resilient port. Community and residential groups can help generate the political will necessary for government investment in storm barriers, research and academic institutions can conduct impact assessments and work with ports to determine best practices, government agencies can include system-level planning that addresses the port in the context of its multimodal connections. Long-range coordinated planning efforts involving many port stakeholders can foster a stronger sense of unity around the common goal of port resilience. Of course, leadership is important to implement such far-reaching strategies. Port operators have a key role to recognize and manage the risk and to spearhead strategic adaptation planning. In some cases, a neutral organization can also play an important role, bridging industry with government and research by creating forums for information sharing and coordination. Superstorms such as Sandy and sea level rise require a new paradigm for resilience planning for ports and port stakeholders. With risk levels increasing for all, a more holistic approach can serve the interests of both the port and the community in which it operates. Port stakeholders outside of the port authority also need to better understand what is at stake. Storms can be expensive in many ways: cleanup costs, business interruptions, environmental damages, rebuilding and lost Continued on page 26 SUMMER 2014 * WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM 25 http://WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Summer 2014

Aapa Headquarters
From the President’s Desk
In Case of Emergency
Extreme Weather
Plug-Ins Enabled
Partners in Fighting Crime
Her Path Leads to Ports
U.S. Needs New Transportation Law that Improves Quality of Life, Economy
Crisis at the Port: Planning Ahead Makes the Difference
Superstorms and Rising Sea Level Present a New Challenge for Ports
Aapa Port Employee Relief Fund a Helping Hand for Those in Need
Toronto Emergency Departments Hold Joint Ice and Cold Water Training Exercises
New Sonar Solution to Protect Aruba Ports Authority
Preparedness, Resiliency and Responsiveness in Mexico
Cat Islands Restoration Strengthens the Resiliency of Port of Green Bay, Local Environment
Index of Advertisers

Seaports Magazine - Summer 2014