Infrastructure

  • N.C. panel releases much-anticipated draft of sea-level rise forecast

    Last week, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commissionadvisory science panel released its draft copyof sea-level rise forecast for several regions along the North Carolina coast over the next thirty years. The state’s General Assembly rejected a similar report in 2010 after coastal developers and some Republican legislators claimed that the report was biased. A 2012 state law bans state agencies from taking any action based on the sea-level forecast until 1 July 2016.Analysts say that the18-months wait untilstate agencies can take sea-level rise forecast into account may put North Carolina behind other East Coast states which have already begun to adapt to sea-level rise by updating their zoning laws, construction elevation requirements, and major infrastructure plans.

  • Studying cancer risks near nuclear facilities

    The National Academy of Sciences has issues a brief report which provides an expert committee’s advice about general methodological considerations for carrying out a pilot study of cancer risks near seven nuclear facilities in the United States. The pilot study will assess the feasibility of two approaches that could be used in a nationwide study to analyze cancer risk near nuclear facilities regulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

  • Miami Beach pushing beachfront development -- collecting storm-water fees to fight sea-level rise

    City planners and real estate developers in Miami Beach are fight the threat of climate change by continuing to encourage the development of new beachfront properties, including hotels and residential condos. Revenue from real estate taxes and fees will fund a $300 million storm-water project. Florida has no income tax, and much of South Florida’s public infrastructure projects are supported by property taxes. By 2020, Miami Beach will have built eighty new storm pumps which will collect and remove up to 14,000 gallons of seawater per minute back into Biscayne Bay.

  • United States must seize opportunity to build sustainable energy system: IEA

    The United States is in a strong position to deliver a reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable energy system, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said, as it released a review of U.S. energy policy. To do so, however, the country must establish a more stable and coordinated strategic approach for the energy sector than has been the case in the past.

  • Major U.S. cities brace for climate change impacts

    American cities facing eroding coastlines and greater risk of storm damage are instituting new policies, adopting new approaches, and establishing new practices in order to be better prepared for the impact of climate change in the coming decades. There are different approaches, but 2014 marks a year of major commitments to practices aiming to control and mitigate future climate change impacts on the country’s urban centers.

  • Green highway snow and ice control cuts the chemicals, reduces cost

    The United States spends $2.3 billion each year to remove highway snow and ice, plus another $5 billion to mitigate the hidden costs associated with the process. This is not counting the costs for city and rural road maintenance. The hidden costs include long-term impacts of salt, sand, and chemical deicers on the natural environment and road infrastructure as well as short-term impacts on semi-trailer trucks and other vehicles from rust and corrosion. Cold-climate researchers show the benefits of clearing the road with green alternatives to the salt, sand, and chemicals typically used for highway snow and ice control.

  • Using prefabrication in construction saves money

    Developers often choose prefabrication to save time on a project. Because the process of building a unit — like a bathroom or an exterior wall panel — off site can be more expensive up front, due largely to the cost of transporting the finished products to the job site, the overall financial benefits have not been well understood. A new study — one of the first to try and quantify the full costs and benefits of using prefabricated elements in a large-scale construction project – found that using prefabricated elements in the construction of the new Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver – opened on 13 December — cut seventy-two workdays off the construction schedule and resulted in $4.3 million in savings.

  • Project cuts phosphorus levels in river

    A 7-year pilot project in the 12,000-acre Pleasant Valley subwatershed of the Pecatonica River in southwestern Wisconsin has helped to reduce the amount of phosphorus and sediment entering the river after major storms by more than a third. The project involved changing practices on just ten of the valley’s sixty-one farms. Certain practices, such as reducing tillage and planting crops that leave more residue to protect the soil, caused the estimated annual amounts of phosphorus and sediment entering the river to drop by 4,400 pounds and 1,300 tons, respectively.

  • Businesses brace for more, and more sophisticated, cyberattacks in 2015

    The recent Sony Pictureshack is one more reason for industries to prepare for a series of cyberattacks which will likely occur in 2015. From massive data leaks to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, hackers will continue to find vulnerabilities within targeted network systems. “In 2015, attackers will continue to look for new vulnerabilities so that they can ‘hack the planet’,” says one cyber expert.

  • Proposed Salt Lake City prison at risk from tsunami waves in event of earthquake

    Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker is warning Utah state leaders that if a proposed prison is constructed on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, it could be at risk of a major tsunami damage in the event of an earthquake in the region. “It all sounds far-fetched that a big earthquake could result in tsunami-like waves on the lake, but it is possible. Basically, I think it is a terrible idea to put a prison there or an industrial park or any other major development because of the hazard from the lake,” says one seismologist.

  • Ten years after the Boxing Day tsunami, are coasts any safer?

    Ten years ago we witnessed one of the worst natural disasters in history, when a huge earthquake off the coast of Sumatra triggered a devastating tsunami which swept across the Indian Ocean. An estimated 230,000 people lost their lives, and 1.6 million people lost their homes or livelihoods. The impact was greatest in northern Sumatra because of its proximity to the earthquake. Catastrophic shaking was followed within minutes by the full force of the tsunami. Thousands of people were also killed in distant countries, where the earthquake could not be felt. If they had received a warning of the approaching tsunami, they could have moved inland, uphill or out to sea, and survived. Future tsunami disasters are inevitable, but with better technology, education and governance we can realistically hope that a loss of life on the scale of the 2004 tsunami disaster will not happen again.

  • If South Korea’s nuclear plant staff are vulnerable, then so are the reactors

    Does it matter that a South Korean nuclear plant was hacked and plans of the complex stolen? As it is South Korea that’s the subject of this latest attack, everyone tends to assume it must have had something to do with North Korea. With a target as sensitive as a nuclear power plant, not unreasonably people are asking if safety could be compromised by a cyberattack. Could hackers cause the next Chernobyl or Three Mile Island? This points to an important and infrequently discussed problem, the vulnerability of critical national infrastructure. Cyber-attacks like these are a great way of levelling the playing field: why invest in massively expensive nuclear weapons program if you can simply shut down your enemies’ power, gas, water, and transportation systems? Increasingly more and more infrastructure is connected to the Internet, with all the security risks that entails.

  • Obama signs five cybersecurity measures into law

    Last week President Barack Obama signed five cybersecurity-related pieces of legislation, including an update to the Federal Information Security Management Act(FISMA) — now called the Federal Information Security Modernization Act — the law which governs federal government IT security. Other cyber legislation the president signed includes the Homeland Security Workforce Assessment Act, the Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act, the National Cybersecurity Protection Act (NCPA), and the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act.

  • Helping coastal communities to visualize sea-level rise

    As part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) initiative to encourage communities to become more aware of the effects of climate change, the agency has awarded Marin County, California a $150,000 grant to engage residents in climate change issues by allowing them to visualize the effects of sea level rise. The grant will pay for two sophisticated viewfinders programed to envision how the landscape will appear in projected sea level rise scenarios, as well as how the landscape appeared in the past.

  • L.A. water supply vulnerable to disruption by earthquakes

    Eighty-eight percent of Los Angeles’s water comes from the Colorado River, Owens Valley, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, passing through three major aqueducts and into the region. The aqueducts cross the San Andreas Fault a total of thirty-two times, making them vulnerable to the much anticipated Big One.A large temblor on the fault could destroy sections of the aqueducts, cutting off the water supply for more than twenty-two million people in Southern California.