The stubbornness has had shocking consequences, the Times reported:

One Biloxi, Miss., property valued at $183,000 flooded 15 times over a decade, costing the program $1.47 million, according to federal data provided by the agency to a member of Congress. Another in Humble, Tex., has resulted in over $2 million in flood payouts even though it was worth just $116,000.

Such astonishing facts are perhaps what inspired Carl Safina, an ecologist and marine conservationist who lives on Long Island, to question the wisdom of having taxpayers subsidize rebuilding in flood-prone areas. “I certainly love shoreside living. I love walking the beach in the morning with my dogs. I love my boat and the people at Montauk’s Westlake Marina where I keep it,” he wrote in a column for CNN. “I have federal flood insurance, thank you. But really, it’s time you considered cutting me off.”

It’s not just the insurance, though. As The New York Times reported in a second front-page article published Sunday, there is also the less widely known Stafford Act, “a federal law that taps the United States Treasury for 75 percent or more of the cost of fixing storm-damaged infrastructure, like roads and utilities.” According to the report:

Experts say the law is at least as important as the flood program in motivating reconstruction after storms. In the same way flood insurance shields families from the financial consequences of rebuilding in risky areas, the Stafford Act shields local and state governments from the full implications of their decisions on land use.

Indeed, despite the writing on the walls and at news outlets across the United States, there are many forces, from the highest levels of government to the lowest, that encourage “short-term thinking” about coastal development, as The Huffington Post’s Tom Zeller, Jr. put it. Hard-hitting coverage of the problem, such as we’ve seen in the past two weeks, can help explain the intransigence, but to break through it, the media will have to deal with their own attention deficit problem and keep plugging away long after the scars inflicted by Sandy have begun to fade.

 

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.