The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Saturday released plans for barriers that would protect New York City and New Jersey from storm surges and coastal flooding.
Details in the proposal show that it would cost about $52 billion to protect New York and New Jersey’s shorelines. It would take an estimated 14 years to build 12 movable storm barriers across major inlets and bays in the region. The plan is called Alternative 3B, one of five options outlined in the NY & NJ Harbor & Tributaries Focus Area Feasibility Study (HATS).
The long-delayed study was initiated in the aftermath of 2012's Hurricane Sandy, Gothamist reported. Almost 2 million New Yorkers were without power during and after the storm; seven subway tunnels flooded during that time, and a 13-foot storm surge especially flooded the L train tunnel. The line cuts through North Brooklyn and areas that would otherwise be transit deserts. The train line’s tunnel was not repaired until spring 2020.
Other extreme weather events have flooded the city in recent years. Though much of the flash flooding from Hurricane Ida in 2021 came as a result of the torrential rains, protections against storm surge could prevent some of the future damage to New York and New Jersey’s transit systems and to housing.
Tentative plans from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for storm surge barriers were announced back in 2019 but were halted in early 2020. The HATS study was restarted last October, and Alternative 3B was finally selected for the city this July, Gothamist reported.
The Army Corps anticipates that it could begin the final designs for the storm gates by 2025 and that construction could start by 2030. If those plans are approved by federal, state, and local officials, the storm surge gates will become the largest system of coastal protections in the region, according to Gothamist. And if approved, the federal government could pay 65% of the cost for implementing these storm gates, the New York Times reported.
Some environmental groups, like Riverkeeper and Guardians of Flushing Bay, have expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the seawalls and movable gates. But the Army Corps said in the draft report that it “is investigating measures to manage future flood risk in ways that support the long-term resilience and sustainability of the coastal ecosystem and surrounding communities.”
The 12 storm surge barriers are not the first discussed ideas for better flooding resilience after Hurricane Sandy. A 2016 report outlined how replanting marshes along New York City waterways could stop storm surges from flooding more of the city.