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Jamaica Bay, pictured here, is a wetland barrier that many have said can serve as a storm barrier if restored. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Forget seawalls, a new report by Oxfam America and the Center for American Progress makes the case that wetlands can be the best buffer against storms like Superstorm Sandy.

“The surge” was something people kept talking about after Superstorm Sandy hit and it was the cause of so much flooding and, consequently, damage. But if there had been some obstacle between the surge and buildings, the flooding wouldn’t haven been so devastating. The report argues that one of the most cost-effective and efficient obstacles can be wetlands, and urges government to support restoration efforts.

“We are increasingly learning the cost of losing landscapes once thought to be valueless. The wetlands ecosystem provided numerous services to society that we now are beginning to sorely miss,” the authors of the report argue. “These benefits include buffering storm surges; safeguarding coastal homes and businesses.”

More than just remarking on the benefits of a wetland, the report quantifies the benefits in economic terms.

For the creation of jobs: “$1 million invested in coastal restoration creates 17.1 jobs on average. This compares to job growth from industrial coastal activities, such as oil and gas development, in which $1 million of investment creates an average of just 5.2 jobs.”

In a time when residents in vulnerable communities like Gerritsen Beach are looking for storm barriers, the Center for American Progress argues that “man-made flood barriers” are “frequently less effective” than something like a swampland.

Senator Charles Schumer made a similar argument when he pushed for the restoration of Jamaica Bay, which is an example of a wetland that serves as a barrier.

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