How a $50 Billion Discovery Saved The Gulf Coast From Coastal Flooding

How Does Coastal Flooding Impact The Gulf Coast Region?

As coastal regions impacted by climate change rise the risk of coastal flooding along the U.S. Gulf coast increases dramatically. However, scientist discovered that oyster reefs and coastal marsh restoration projects can reduce the risk.  In fact, a new coastal marsh and restoration study reveals that these solutions will help save $50 billion in coastal flood damages throughout the entire Gulf Coast region.

Oyster reefs, coastal wetlands barrier islands, and beach dunes provide coastal stability by crippling wave energy, circumventing sediments, and compressing gale force winds caused by storm surges.

What’s Being Done to Restore Our Coastlines and Prevent Future Floods?

Restoration consultants are continually assessing the potential cost of nature-based and fabricated solutions for coastal flood reduction throughout the region. They have established the fact that wetland, and reef restoration projects would produce a benefit- to-cost ratios greater than $7 in flood-reduction benefits for every $1 spent on coastal restoration efforts.

A few of the other alternative solutions that were discussed and researched included, home elevation and levees. Each of these solutions have generated a benefit-to- cost ratios close to or below one-to-one. Even though these options can be beneficial solutions, they are also very costly to implement.

What are the Associated Risks That Impact Coastal Flooding?

Coastal restoration experts predict that the flood risks to both people and coastline properties for the entire region under existing and future climate scenarios and monetary growth projections. Experts have concluded that future flood risks from coastal hazards will skyrocket. However, that’s because coastal  development is a critical driver of risk along the Gulf of Mexico.

Thanks to a growing population and the growing demand for coastal properties that are exposed to hazardous conditions, the chances of coastal flooding occurring become an increasing reality.

Coastal restoration consultants involved in the project discovered that events causing $100 billion in damages will occur three times as often over the course of the next 15 to 20 years.

Solution to the Problem

Study lead author Michael Beck is a research professor at University of California Santa Cruz.  He’s also the lead marine scientist at the Nature Conservancy.

“We show that nature-based measures for flood reduction are considered right alongside artificial or gray measures. This includes, seawalls in industry-based benefit-cost models,” said Beck. “This removes a major impediment for engineers, insurers, and risk management agencies for building coastal resilience more naturally.”

According to the study, nature-based results prohibit greater than 45 percent of climate hazards over a 20 year period. In addition, the projected cost savings are well over $50 billion in coastal flood damages.

The research team designed a software that includes interactive maps showing the cost-effectiveness of nature-based solutions under future coastal climate and development scenarios. The software is available for sale at coastalresilience.org