Blue Dunes is a research proposal for a string of barrier islands in response to the challenges of regional coastal resiliency in the northeastern United States. The proposal brought together designers, climate scientists, financial advisors, risk managers, and various community boards and members in an effort to address and mitigate the damage of future storms in a changing climate.
When Superstorm Sandy made landfall in 2012, it devastated communities across the Northeastern United States, causing significant numbers of lost lives and billions of dollars in damages in the second costliest hurricane in US history.
The Blue Dunes study, funded by HUD and the Rockefeller Foundation through the Rebuild by Design competition, allowed this approach to be dissected and debated by communities of scientists, experts in risk management and waterfront communities throughout the region. Through a set of colloquia, the opinions of a variety of experts in the region were solicited - marine biologists, oceanographers, hydrodynamic modelers, urban planners, lawyers, financial experts, catastrophic bond analysts, and many more. The project was presented through panels and lectures and will be the subject of a future publication.
The hypothesis for Blue Dunes came about because of the expense and complexity of building up and changing over 4000 miles of coastline just in the NY-NJ area. The resulting hydrodynamic and economic models showed that offshore dunes, potentially coupled with offshore wind renewable energy, have great potential to diminish risks for loss of life and property in the region.
This approach offers an effective line of defense for a wide variety of storm types, and promises to mitigate the risks of extreme weather for a significant portion of the region’s residents and businesses. The study showed that substantial annual savings, in the range of tens of millions dollars for flood insurance alone, could be procured and leveraged for future resiliency measures at the regional or national level.
In addition to rigorous financial and economic analysis, ecological impacts were also researched. The islands, over time, could become unique ecosystems with rich biodiversity, providing habitats for numerous coastal species and opportunities for education and recreation for the region.