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Abstract

In light of the devastation left behind by the three most recent natural disasters in the northeast region—Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and Superstorm Sandy—local and state governments are now implementing “buyout programs” in order to protect the future of beachfront and flood-prone communities. These programs may not be a perfect solution, so, while positions differ on whether to pursue taking private properties by use of eminent domain, it may be a favorable option in order to attain the ultimate goal of safety and resilience against future disaster. Section II of this paper will analyze the background and impacts that Irene, Lee, and Sandy left on the Northeast. A factual layout of these disasters’ damages, causalities, and other particulars is essential to properly understanding the need for appropriate relief functionality. Next, Section III will define general legal principles and changes that have been made in effort to provide safer communities in anticipation of natural disasters. The fourth section will analyze specific state’s buyout programs as a form of disaster relief, which includes an inquiry into their functions, funding, and options available to property owners. Section V will discuss the government’s power of eminent domain and introduce it as a promising option to achieve the goals that the buyout programs may not have the ability or authority to reach, as well as provide examples of where and how it has been used. Next, Section VI will outline the beneficial aspects of eminent domain as opposed to the more commonly known negative connotations associated with the principle. In conclusion, Section VII will discuss how eminent domain could positively affect disaster prone areas, despite government hesitance to use it in fear that the public will view their actions as an abuse of authority.