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One city flirts with lowering its defenses in a stormy future

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- A hurricane barrier stretches 3 1/2 miles here, for years breaking storm-driven waves at a yawning river mouth as seas surge toward the smelly scallop fleet and old houses on the hill. Now the snaking structure also threatens to break the bank. The city says it can't afford to inspect its part of the system, a move that could push the federal government to decertify the entire barrier.

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