The Press of Atlantic City: Dutch flood control expert Edgar J. Westerhof stood in front of hundreds of floodplain managers at Bally’s Atlantic City on Wednesday and showed an aerial photo of an intensely developed Atlantic City, from the ocean to the bay.

“Is this a coastal calamity in slow motion?” he asked the crowd attending the 14th annual conference of the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management. The group is made up of specialists in reducing loss of life and property damage from floods, many of whom work for municipalities.

In the face of rising sea levels and more frequent storms, such complete development of barrier islands is unsustainable, said the North America flood risk and resilience lead of Arcadis, the consultancy and design firm that is working with New York City on the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan. Hurricane Sandy caused $19 billion in damage just in Manhattan, according to Arcadis.

“The future of this area is about tough decisions,” Westerhof said of Atlantic City, as coastal areas adjust to an expected 4-foot to 8-foot sea-level rise by 2100, and to regular nuisance flooding at every high tide by about 2030. “This is not going to be a pleasure cruise.”

The conference also included workshops on stormwater management, hazard mitigation planning and the National Flood Insurance Program.

Atlantic City and other barrier islands will have to identify the areas most important to protect — those with the greatest environmental, economic and cultural assets — and put financial resources into natural and constructed barriers that will allow people to live and work there. Check it out >>