We can't afford this now, and we never should have afforded it.
Since 1979, nearly a dozen hurricanes and large storms have rolled in and knocked down houses, chewed up sewers and water pipes and hurled sand onto the roads.As the New York Times discovered, Dauphin Island, Alabama, is a spit of sand with real estate under water in the fine tradition of land speculators and fraud:
Yet time and again, checks from Washington have allowed the town to put itself back together.
Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas.
Dauphin Island is not stable enough to sustain much plant growth, much less homes that aren't houseboats moored to the sand. American taxpayers should not subsidize rebuilding this as if we were King Canute and, worse, unable to learn anything from experience.
Pretty simple: Don't build on barrier beaches unless you can afford to have your property washed away.
And we should learn that Zillow fabulously overstates property values.
Update (11/24): A path less travelled...
[A]t 3 a.m. the next morning, the idea of moving the town woke me up from a sound sleep. I got dressed, went to my office and hammered out a counter-proposal to the Corps: Let us spend the $3.5 million to move the town’s flood prone buildings to higher ground. We’d never ask for federal disaster assistance again.
The Village Board endorsed the idea, but the Corps declined. It was not in the business of moving people; it was in the business of building things and naming them after members of Congress.A calculus like this also pertains to New York City, which will either need vast billions of dollars to create a polder or relocation of low-lying assets or the profligate waste of clean-up and repair funds again and again.