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Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics

Document Type

Research Article

Abstract

The damage Hurricane Sandy caused had far-reaching repercussions up and down the East Coast of the United States. Vast coastal flooding accompanied the storm, inundating homes, businesses, and utility and emergency facilities. Since the storm, projects to mitigate similar future floods have been scrutinized. Such projects not only need to keep out floodwaters but also be designed to withstand the effect that climate change might have on rising sea levels and increased flood risk.

In this study, we develop an economic model to assess the costs and benefits of a berm (sea wall) to mitigate the effects of flooding from a large storm. We account for the lifecycle costs of the project, which include those for the upfront construction of the berm, ongoing maintenance, land acquisition, and wetland and recreation zone construction. Benefits of the project include avoided fatalities, avoided residential and commercial damages, avoided utility and municipal damages, recreational and health benefits, avoided debris removal expenses, and avoided loss of function of key transportation and commercial infrastructure located in the area. Our estimate of the beneficial effects of the berm includes ecosystem services from wetlands and health benefits to the surrounding community from a park and nature system constructed along the berm.

To account for the effects of climate change and verify that the project will maintain its effectiveness over the long term, we allow the risk of flooding to increase over time. Over our 50-year time horizon, we double the risk of 100- and 500-year flood events to account for the effects of sea level rise on coastal flooding. Based on the economic analysis, the project is highly cost beneficial over its 50-year timeframe. This analysis demonstrates that climate change adaptation investments can be cost beneficial even though they mitigate the impacts of low-probability, high-consequence events.

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