Jessica Weinkle

science, risk, politics... and society

The Riggings: Between a rock and a hard place

The Fort Fisher area is a gem.  It's a narrow strip of barrier island with the southern end forming part of the mouth of the Cape Fear River.  Fort Fisher is an important historic landmark.  The Fort guarded the the mouth of the river used to transport goods to the Confederate army during the Civil War.  The fall of Fort Fisher swiftly led to the end of the war.  The wind swept trees and bramble type bushes create a canopy underneath for wildlife... and well, whomever else.  It's hot and buggy in the summer unless the breeze is good and strong, and cold, wet and windy in the winter.  It's pretty fantastic. 

Erosion of the Fort Fisher area is protected by rip rap a type of "hardened structure" that keeps the land in place.  In North Carolina, hardened structures are few and far between because the state has a law generally against them.  Sometimes there are exemptions usually for wealthy people and heritage sites, like Fort Fisher.  At the north end of Fort Fisher's rip rap  is a condo complex, The Riggings.   

Fort Fisher.png

The Riggings is threatened by erosion.  And apparently it has been since it was built.  Zillow reports the condos built in 1982 (the local news says, 1985). The state has protected the site with sandbags since 1985. The sandbags are considered "temporary" but as they say, there is nothing as permanent as a temporary policy.  Indeed, North Carolina's coast is dotted with a many sandbag projects. 

picture.png

To get a sense of what I mean by "threatened by erosion" see my own picture on the right. 

The RIggings HOA has been fighting to allow beach nourishment in front of the property.  A nice package of documents, tells a detailed story of a struggle between the HOA, USACE and the NC Coastal Resources Commission.   

Just north of the Riggings is a natural, and rare, outcropping of rock that are on the NC Registry of National Heritage Sites.  The rocks were placed on the list in 1982.  Protection of rocks is part of the reason the Riggings can't be included in the beach nourishment project scheduled for 2018/2019 for Carolina and Kure Beaches. 

The current (largely considered very pro development) NC Coastal Resources Commission questions the significance of the rocks being protected and the USACE reports that they can't nourish in front of the Riggings because they can't cover the rocks with sand.  As well, the condo sit right along a point so that even if they were to nourish in front of the building, wave action makes erosion especially quick there and beach nourishment ineffective. 

The squabbel is quite interesting in part because it has been going on for so long.  But also because it combines so many issues:  A perfect storm of sorts: erosion, resource protection, real estate development, parks, civil war relics...    

Congress ponders a science policy for economic models

United_States_Capitol_-_west_front.jpg

With summer break just around the bend, I've started cleaning up my desktops, those virtual and physical.  Cleaning up however, usually means wading through and reviewing my miscellaneous downloads collected with a passing, "oh, that's kinda interesting" as I was searching the web for something else.  

The excerpts here are from the House Committee on Science and Technology in 2010, "Building a science of economic for the real world."  The hearing was an effort to better understand economic models, their uses, and attribution tot he economic crisis that gripped the world at the time. Brad Miller (D-NC) chaired the committee and provided the opening remarks.  Several hot shot economics scholars were witnesses.

Miller prefaced the meeting with some astute questions, not only about the wisdom of how the models are used in everyday decision making but about developing practical science policy

To be fair, DGSE [Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium model] and similar macroeconomic models were first conceived as theorists’ tools. But why, then, are they being relied on as the platform upon which so much practical policy advice is formulated? And what has caused them to become, and to stay, so firmly entrenched? And, finally, the most important question of all: What do we get when we apply the various tools at our disposal to the urgent economic problems we’re facing today? 
If this approach to economics is useless for the purposes of advising policy makers to lead to better economic outcomes, what are we getting out of the economic research funded through the NSF?
Besides raising these questions about the dominant model, we plan to have a look at the competition. What kinds of alternative models exist, and do we need to generate still others? Should we be using a variety of models in concert rather than relying on only one type? Should the Federal Government use its funding of economic science to encourage the development of these alternative approaches?

The opening remarks by Paul Broun (R-GA) targeted the difficult challenges facing decision makers even when modeled information is present. 

Ultimately, decisions have to be made based on a number of variables which should include scientific models but certainly not exclusively. As the witnesses of previous hearings have stated, ‘‘Science describes; it does not prescribe.’’ No model will ever relieve a banker, trader, risk manager or policymaker of the responsibility of making difficult decisions.

I'm sure there's more good stuff in there but it's time to move on to the next document...