Army Corps Explores Giant Sea Barrier & Other Options

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After Hurricane Sandy, when protective measures for our waters were being discussed, the idea of a barrier running from the tip of Breezy Point to Sandy Hook, NJ, was thrown around as a possible option. That idea seemed to fall to the wayside for a while until last week, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced public meetings to discuss that and four other options for the New York/ New Jersey Harbor region. With short notice about those meetings that were held in Manhattan, Newark and Poughkeepsie this week, the chance to hear about these plans has come and gone, but the option to give public comment remains open until August 20.

Following Sandy, USACE began looking into “measures to manage future flood risk in ways that support the long-term resilience and sustainability of the coastal ecosystem and surrounding communities, and reduce the economic costs and risks associated with flood and storm events.” In 2015, they conducted the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS), which identified nine high risk areas on the Atlantic Coast for further analysis based on preliminary findings. Among those were the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Region. USACE then began to explore options for ways to manage flood risk in this area and presented those preliminary options in September 2017. (Note, this is a separate issue from the Rockaway Reformulation Study, which would include protective measures such as jetties on our beaches. This study is expected to be released in August.)

The focus of the public meetings held from July 9-11, were these alternatives as part of the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Coastal Risk Management Feasibility Study. The ideas were brought to the public to get a better idea of which alternatives may be best for this region that includes the waters off of New Jersey, New York Harbor and all the way up to Upstate New York. In its report, USACE explained that no alternatives can completely eliminate the risk of flooding in these areas, but they can reduce the frequency of flooding. The options that were given were to 1) No Action, 2) Create a NY/NJ Lower Bay and Throggs Neck Surge Barriers, 3A/3B) Multiple Surge Barriers, Flood Walls and Levee Systems, 4) Solitary Bay and River Basin Surge Barriers, Flood Walls and Levees, and 5) Perimeter Work Only.

Option 1 is exactly what it sounds like; do nothing and let nature take its course. Option 2 is of particular interest to our waters, as it would include a five-mile long concrete and steel barrier going through the water from Breezy Point to Sandy Hook, NJ. In its meetings, USACE gave several examples of these kinds of barriers at work in places like London and the Netherlands. Barriers such as this would come at a high cost of roughly $10 to $36 billion. Options 3 is also of local interest, as 3A would include smaller barriers, including one near the Verrazano Bridge, going from Brooklyn to Staten Island, and another going across the beginning of Jamaica Bay, from Rockaway to Brooklyn, plus levees running along Brooklyn and Rockaway. Option 3B would also include this Jamaica Bay barrier, plus another going from New Jersey to Staten Island, and levees and floodwalls in various locations. Option 4 would also impact Rockaway, as it would include only the Jamaica Bay barrier, plus levees and floodwalls in various locations. Option 5 would simply include shoreline-based protective measures, mostly around New York Harbor. All of these options are conceptual, so not many details were available.

At the New York Public Hearing meetings, many expressed concern over the environmental impacts of the options that include barriers in the water, saying that they would restrict water flow and impact sealife around New York Harbor. An article by Riverkeeper went as far as to say the barriers “would threaten the very existence of the Hudson as a living river.” Riverkeeper advised that the only ideal option would be Option 5. USACE has not fully explored the environmental impacts of each option, as this will come in the next steps of the study as USACE develops a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Through the public meetings, USACE is gathering info on what should be addressed in the EIS. While the public meetings are over, the public has until August 20 to weigh in on the proposal. Comments can be sent through email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More information about the options can be found at: http://www.nan.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Projects-in-New-York/New-York-New-Jersey-Harbor-Tributaries-Focus-Area-Feasibility-Study/

USACE hopes to release a draft report on their findings in the fall of 2018. After this report is released, further public meetings will be held and further public comments will be accepted. USACE hopes to release a final report in the spring of 2021 and submit their Chief’s Report to Congress by Summer 2022, so that they can get started on construction.

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