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Press Release:

MEDIA CONTACT: Cara Perry
772-873-3339, ccarlton@fau.edu

FAU’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions Releases Study Analyzing Impact of 2004 Hurricanes on the Treasure Coast

FORT PIERCE, FL (May 22, 2007) – Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions (CUES) has completed a study of hurricane vulnerability and the impacts of Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne on Florida’s Treasure Coast. The “Living on the Edge: Coastal Storm Vulnerability of the Treasure Coast Barrier Islands” report analyzes the relationship between the growing cost of hurricanes and demographic trends, development practices and planning policies.

Prior to the official onset of the 2007 hurricane season, the erosion associated tropical storm Andrea has rekindled the debate on beach and dune restoration practices that followed the 2004 and 2005 hurricane season. Drought and wildfires have accentuated the need for sustainable and resilient development practices. This study aims to inform policy-makers and the public about the nature of community vulnerability to coastal hazards and policies that foster resiliency.

With a focus on people, places and the economy, the study highlights the resiliency and vulnerability characteristics of barrier island communities in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River County, and examines how federal, state and local policies address hazard vulnerability. The results of the report are primary based on the affects of hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004.

The study, available on CD-ROM, also offers two sets of recommendations for preventive measures – the first is specific to the barrier island geography and the second includes broader principles applicable to the study area, as well as vulnerable coastal areas on the mainland.

Among some of the key findings were:

·         The ferocity of hurricanes Frances and Jeanne was experienced primarily on the coastline north of the landfall site. In response, public investment in beach restoration included $12.6 million in Emergency Relief Grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); $68 million committed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate planned Treasure Coast projects; and $15.2 million for emergency beach restoration provided by the state. Recreational facilities in all three counties, particularly public beaches, beach crosswalks, life guard stations, beach parking and comfort facilities, experienced widespread damage and accounted for nearly $19 million of the federal recovery aid funds

·         FEMA provided $164.76 million in Individual Assistance Grants (IAG) throughout the region – approximately 8 percent of the total, or $12.5 million, was distributed to barrier island residents. The affluence of barrier island households typically lowers the social vulnerability of these communities, as these resident are perceived to have greater access to resources.   However, construction age and quality have a significant impact on vulnerability.  Although St. Lucie barrier island residents filed only 3 percent of their county’s IAG claims, the greater level of physical damage among older structures means they received 11 percent of the money provided to county residents. To increase resiliency, there is a need to invest in retrofitting the older construction.

·         The leisure and hospitality sector lost 700 jobs immediately following the storms, two-thirds in Vero Beach. However, by the first quarter of 2005, those jobs began to return – first in St. Lucie County where the sector showed net gains by April 2005, and later in Vero Beach where 100 jobs were recovered each month between March and May. A year later, the net loss in this sector was approximately 200 jobs.

“Living on the Edge” is supported by the Institute for a Sustainable Treasure Coast, an effort of CUES, dedicated to tracking the progress of the Committee for a Sustainable Treasure Coast’s recommendations. The project has been undertaken as part of CUES’s participation in the Florida Hurricane Alliance. The Florida Hurricane Alliance is an integrated multi-year, multidisciplinary cooperative research initiative focused on reducing societal losses from severe coastal storm events.  

For more information or to receive a CD with the complete “Living on the Edge” study, contact Ana Puszkin-Chevlin at 561-297-1464 or apuszkin@fau.edu. For more information on the institute and other efforts resulting from the Committee for a Sustainable Treasure Coast, visit www.sustainabletc.org.

-FAU-

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