USA - Nature Is Infrastructure: Our Nation Must Invest in It
Our nation’s experiences with hurricanes demonstrate that natural infrastructure can maximize environmental, economic, and community benefits, according to the Nature Conservancy’s Lynn Scarlett, former deputy secretary of the Interior, and AECOM’s Michael J. Donahue. They say investment in natural and traditional infrastructure changes can improve the resiliency of communities and Congress has the chance to act.
The pictures of communities like Pensacola, Fla., and Lake Charles, La., damaged by recent hurricanes are sadly all too familiar. We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can do more to invest in enhancing the resilience of communities, lowering the impact to infrastructure when storms hit. We know that preparing for natural disasters creates jobs, reduces recovery costs, and saves lives.
As Congress deliberates possible disaster aid, a stimulus package, and infrastructure bills like the Water Resources Development Act, one area that demands more investment is in the shorelines, wetlands and reefs that are part of the country’s natural infrastructure.
Lessons From Hurricane Sandy
To understand why this is important, consider when Hurricane Sandy hit Cape May, N.J., in 2012.
As the storm churned over the ocean, sea level rose, sending fierce waves crashing into the shore, putting homes, schools, offices, factories, roads, bridges, shops, and hospitals—the entire infrastructure of a community—and people’s lives—at risk.
But for this community, nature was serving as a buffer between it and the water, with wetlands and sand dunes stopping waves, absorbing floodwaters, and protecting the community.
The nature-based solutions, which included beach replenishment, dune reconstruction, wetlands restoration, habitat improvements, creation of levees and installation of water control structures, saved Cape May Point from sustaining what could have been massive amounts of property damage and financial hardship.