The Biden Administration May Like to Read and Act on Readers’ Responses

by Bobby Reyes

Tornadic damage produced by an EF2 tornado, spawned by Hurricane Ian | Photo by David Dellinger via Wikimedia Commons

Part XX of the “Florida, the State of the Future” Series

This column’s idea last Sunday was about changing the reaction of both the federal-and-state governments and the community in dealing with the damages caused by hurricanes and other calamities. It generated lots of positive comments. The readers’ remarks were reproduced on many of the Facebook sites where it was posted.
Here are some of the most-viable comments, as reproduced for the attention of The White House and others.

Cindy Stiles, an environmental activist, shared a link in the “Team Ryan Morales for Florida” Facebook Group. Her posting added an argument to the hypothesis discussed in the last column about President Biden “going bolder” in re-directing (and “reinventing”) federal aid to hurricane victims not only in Florida but also in neighboring states affected by the calamity.

Ms. Stiles posted: “This book (The Geography of Risk: Epic Storms, Rising Seas, and the Cost of America’s Coasts) is a must read for every Floridian. It talks about how these storms annihilate cities and what do we do? The stupidity of it all, we rebuild in those same places thinking by building stronger, we won’t lose the buildings to storm surge. Sanibel Island should not be rebuilt. It should be made into a park. But we will be the definition of insanity. We do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result while we keep using up taxpayer money” — as wasted for the rebuilding efforts (emphasis supplied by the columnist). The book is available at Barnes & Noble bookstores and also online.

Here is a synopsis of the book written by Gilbert M. Gaul: “Consider this: Five of the most expensive hurricanes in history have made landfall since 2005: Katrina ($160 billion), Ike ($40 billion), Sandy ($72 billion), Harvey ($125 billion), and Maria ($90 billion). With more property than ever in harm’s way, and the planet and oceans warming dangerously, it won’t be long before we see a $250 billion hurricane. Why? Because Americans have built $3 trillion worth of property in some of the riskiest places on earth: barrier islands and coastal floodplains. And they have been encouraged to do so by what Mr. Gaul reveals in ‘The Geography of Risk’ to be a confounding array of federal subsidies, tax breaks, low-interest loans, grants, and government flood insurance that shift the risk of life at the beach from private investors to public taxpayers, radically distorting common notions of risk.”

By the way, Hurricane Ian’s damages to properties and public infrastructures may exceed an estimated $260-billion in Florida alone, along with 100 deaths (and counting).

A lot of good comments posted by readers (and my replies) can be read in the “Save Our Rural Areas” (SORA) Facebook Group at this link.

Jonathan Alexander comments: “Stop building in Florida. We are overcrowded, and the trees that filter the wind are being pushed down. They have already destroyed the mangroves that protect the coast from storm surge.” He adds: “The federal government needs to step in and buy the parts of Southwest Florida that got devastated. It will always be prone to floods.”

This columnist replies to @Jonathan Alexander and @Jerome Feaster (a SORA administrator): If a coalition of Floridians (especially if many Lincoln Republicans join it), the purchase of many storm-prone lands in Southwest Florida and other areas may be the only way to save lives and protect the environment — as a long-term solution. Thanks for your respective response.

“The federal government needs to step in and buy the parts of Southwest Florida that got devastated. It will always be prone to floods.”

–Jonathan Alexander, reader

Jonathan Alexander further commented: @Bobby M. Reyes Yes, I saw a documentary on the town in Pennsylvania that (was) burning up from the coal that caught fire and is still burning from the 1970s. The (federal) government had to buy the residents out and close the town. The towns in the path will eventually have to be purchased as well. “Silent Hill” the movie is based on it. Residents in some shingle creek in Central Florida are being forced to leave because of rising waters from the river nearby. Mind you, the storm is over, but water levels are rising.

Donna Phillips also commented on the SORA Facebook Group: “That’s (the) way to (be) logical for the federal government to attempt😵‍💫.”

This columnist replies: “@Donna Phillips Yes, you are absolutely correct. The most-logical way to protect the environment of Florida is for the federal government to pour in the funding for good and ecologically-meaningful projects. The suggested $300-million per week means federal funds amount to $1.56-billion in 52 weeks (one year). If it lasts for at least 20 years (same length as the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan), it can mean some $31.2-billion for projects in Florida. And construction of the needed infrastructures can be facilitated by the deployment of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

The rest of the Afghan War expenditure of $300 million per day can be channeled (per week) to six other areas being tormented by hurricanes, storms, and natural disasters every year. Or at least devastated every other year or every fifth year.

Carmen Marina adds a comment in the SORA Facebook Group: “🛑 Stop building on Barrier Islands.” It is very similar to the suggestion of Ms. Stiles that “Sanibel Island should not be rebuilt. It should be made into a park.”

Perhaps President Biden may become really bold, if not bolder, in putting to work the suggested “Biden Back-to-Basics Doctrine.” The basic fact is that federal dollars must be used better; instead of helping homeowners and building owners, rebuild them with the same design and flimsy materials in the exact location that storm surges and winds destroy.

Perhaps The White House can consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the best ways to rebuild hurricane-stricken areas — with the input of environmentalists and community and homeowners’ representatives. Finalize, update and improve current feasibility studies and environmental-impact reports. Start the suggested better process of rebuilding in due time. Yes, perhaps before the start of the 2023 hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

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