For many coastal communities, solutions may reside in rethinking the role of natural systems. Coastal dunes and wetlands play a substantial role in mitigating damage from coastal storms. For example, solutions to transportation and access issues in Chincoteague may require sustaining the natural system of dunes to help protect the whole community from future coastal floods, while devising more parking and user-friendly transport to and from the refuge.
This nation cannot address problems of inadequate infrastructure by spending billions of dollars on the infrastructure solutions of the past century. And with thousands of miles of sensitive and changing coastlines, this nation’s communities cannot afford to turn these infrastructure issues into old-fashioned debates about economies versus the environment.
Lynn Scarlett was deputy secretary and Lyle Laverty was an assistant secretary at the Interior Department under President George W. Bush.