Coastal State Discussion Webinar: The Future of Coastal Megaprojects

Narragansett, R.I.– February 12, 2021 – Rhode Island is long overdue for a major hurricane. Even a brush with Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which caused $11.2 million in damages and left 122,000 Rhode Islanders without power, was not a worst-case scenario, but a reminder of the state’s exposure and vulnerability. And a record-setting hurricane season in 2020 with 30 named storms, 12 of which made landfall in the U.S., was another reminder of how a changing climate makes rising seas and storm flooding more devastating.

Storm surge barriers, levees, and other coastal flood protection megaprojects are being investigated as strategies to protect U.S. cities against devastating coastal storms and rising sea levels. But these projects are large scale and complex, often taking years to decades to complete and costing billions of dollars with long-lasting impacts on the economy, environment, and society. Additional layers of social conflict and other political factors also cast doubt on their ability to serve as practical climate adaptation options.

On March 9 from 3 to 5 p.m., Paul Kirshen, professor of climate adaptation at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and D.J. Rasmussen, an engineer and climate scientist who recently graduated from Princeton University’s School of Public Policy & International Affairs, will discuss the technical, environmental, economic, and political factors of why some coastal flood protection megastructures break ground in the U.S. while others do not, using Boston Harbor and Rhode Island’s Fox Point Hurricane Barrier in Providence–the first gated hurricane-protection structure in the U.S.– as case studies.

“This is a really timely discussion because the world will be grappling with these problems in the coming decades. Many coastal cities and communities will consider large-scale barriers as a solution for sea level rise and storm surge,” says Austin Becker, associate professor of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island.

This free webinar is part of the annual Coastal State Discussion Series hosted by Rhode Island Sea Grant and co-sponsored by the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Institute. This webinar is supported by the University of Rhode Island Marine Affairs Department and The Policy Lab at Brown University.

To learn more and register for this event, please visit

The Coastal State Discussion Series is a forum dedicated to highlighting current scientific research, finding solutions, and building partnerships focused on marine issues impacting coastal communities and environments.