To the Editor:
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STOP the people who lost their houses in the hurricane from rebuilding. It will be an expensive and costly mistake that will only get worse (more expensive) over time.
In the 1960s most beach houses were little more than uninsulated shacks used only in the summer. I considered the shore a 9-month wilderness since few people were out on the beaches from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
Then, in the 1970s people started rebuilding their beach houses for year-round use and making them larger and larger. This increased the number of people at the shore in general and year-round. This is when the problems began, making more people exposed to the threat of storms.
These buildings were made possible with the federal subsidy of flood insurance. Without the insurance, that is subsidized by the public, they would likely not have been built. Now, when they get damaged we pay for their repair and/or replacement, even if It happens time and time again. Now with global warming the polar ice is melting increasing water levels, and increasing water temperatures. This mean storm damage will be more frequent and more severe with increasing cost for each event.
When there is a storm there is the cost of public safety, including police and fire personnel, evacuations, shelters, search and rescue, waste removal infrastructure repair, and insurance payments. This cost can be reduced by stopping building on exposed beaches and sandbars.
The government needs to treat each property like an automobile. When the house is totaled you pay the owners off and turn the site into open space. The increase in coastal open space will improve the value of remaining sites and increase tourist activity. For any remaining houses they can be taken by eminent domain or stop providing government flood insurance.
The difference in the policies can been seen by comparing Stratford and Fairfield. Geologically both are very similar with large amounts of lowland beaches and marshes. In Fairfield they had an evacuation, police patrols and many destroyed houses. In Stratford, the low areas, (Long Beach and Short Beach) long ago had the houses removed. There was no evacuation and only police keeping people out of the parks. The cost to government in Stratford will be a fraction of that in Fairfield.
Hurricane Sandy provides us an opportunity to remove houses with minimal cost and prevent future expenses. So, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STOP the people who lost their houses in the hurricane from rebuilding.