The dumbing-down of NC's coastal management

When science gets in the way of out-of-control developers, science loses:

That study and future appointments to the panel have Stan Riggs, a panel member and geologist with East Carolina University, more than a little concerned about future protection of the coastal environment. Riggs questions if the panel will be able to finish its work.

“Actually, it’s unclear if we’re going to be allowed to talk about that anymore. There’s a new CRC, and they are desperately trying to eliminate what the science panel is doing,” Riggs said before the meeting was postponed Tuesday. “They’ve thrown us totally under the train. I don’t think anybody has a clue as to what is going to happen. Well, somebody may have a clue, but the scientists attending that meeting do not have clue. The future, I think, is very uncertain.”

Yes, it's another example of the anti-intellectualism coursing through the veins of the Republican Party. Science is merely another art form to them, to be critiqued like a one-dimensional representation hanging on a wall, while they stand ten feet away with their arms crossed in doubt and disdain. But also coursing through their veins is the toxic influence of money:

Riggs believes the new Republican administration and the Republican-controlled General Assembly in Raleigh are moving toward weakening coastal environmental regulations to open coastal areas to more development.

“There’s no question about what this Legislature wants to do, and that’s get rid of the science. They absolutely do not want science,” Riggs said. “There’s been a lot of questions asked why are we even meeting. The chair of the CRC and the (Division of) Coastal Management people have tried to assure us to not to worry about that and that they need us very badly. So, we’ve got a major conflict developing here. It’s clear what the Legislature’s trying to do.”

Yes, it is. They're going to turn over the management of our natural resources to the people who write the big campaign contribution checks:

BASE, the Business Alliance for a Sound Economy, is an organization of trade associations and numerous independent businesses, registered with the IRS as a 501(c)6 on January 2003 and was formed to take collaborative action on issues of concern to their broad membership engaged in residential and commercial real estate sales, home building, land development, economic development, finance, property management and leasing. BASE represents numerous independent businesses and the approximately 12,000 members of the Brunswick County Home Builders Association, the Brunswick County Landowners Association, the Topsail Island Association of REALTORS®, The Pitt County Economic Development Partnership, and the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association. BASE also has the resources of the National Association of Home Builders, the NC Home Builders Association, and their lobbyists, staffs, and resources as well as our attorney Craig Bromby with Hunton & Williams’ Raleigh office, at our disposal.

The simple theory behind BASE is strength in numbers. BASE is a coalition of associations with a single mission; to promote public policies which encourage regional economic growth, job creation and a healthy real estate, homebuilding, land use and development industry. This is accomplished through direct input into the political, legislative and administrative processes.

Speaking of direct input:

Science doesn't stand a chance in this romper room.


Science ignored, science abused:

I found this article while looking for more information on inlets and development in NC's coastal areas:

Many of you may have read environmental impact statements or engineering design documents or have attended public hearings about plans to engineer beaches. You suspect that the plan is flawed but you find yourself up against a brick wall in the form of a mathematical model, said to be sophisticated and state-of-the-art. You are not the only one with this problem. Even if the math is not beyond you, the models are usually impenetrable to all but professionals.

Quantitative mathematical models are widely used to predict the behavior of beaches, especially for coastal engineering purposes. Questions asked in this modeling practice involve future sea-level-rise rates, effect of sea level rise on erosion rates, future shoreline erosion rates, environmental impact of seawalls, groins and breakwaters, life spans of replenished beaches, impacts of dredging, and impacts of navigation channels and a lot more.

Three major problems work against good mathematical modeling for beaches: storms, politics and engineers.

All earth surface processes have extreme events, but oceanic storms tend to be very frequent and usually are the dominant force behind beach processes. How can you put storms in a beach model? Storms are complex and their future impact depends upon the direction, intensity, duration, location, frequency, and the state of the beach.

Politics plays a role because influential people build structures right next to beaches, and local politics tends to favor the preservation of those buildings over preservation of beaches. In addition, in the US the Army Corps of Engineers must play heavy politics in beach management because they are required to please the Congress. The agency cannot survive without projects.

The third conundrum is that coastal engineers have a job to do and will “bend” things a lot to get the job done. Consulting coastal engineers have a strong tendency to find the “truth” according to their clients’ needs, in order to get that job done. Consultants who don’t play ball are soon out of work.

Of course, RW climate change deniers would (and probably have) cited this study as evidence that models are bad, and should be ignored. But the bottom line is, whatever the erosion models show, storms make things much worse.