On YouTube: Debate ensues into how to best protect NY-NJ Harbor from future disaster
Coastal Processes & Hazards - News

Several years after superstorm Sandy devastated our region, FiOS1News is taking an in-depth look on recommendations made by a federal agency to prevent coastal and storm surge flooding.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has released a report detailing recommendations. It comes ahead of public meetings taking place throughout our area to get your input on the plans starting next week.

So just how vulnerable are we to major floods after superstorm Sandy and how strong is our coastal resilience?
Here's Ray Romande with a special investigation ...

New York, NY, March 8, 2019 - The future of America's most storied and famous Harbor and the gleaming coastal cities that align it lie within the waning and rising waters of the Hudson River.

And now the US Army Corps of Engineers is once again shining a spotlight on just how vulnerable the coastal regions of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are to catastrophic flooding.

For nearly two decades, New York Sea Grant has funded studies of Malcom Bowman's as well as other investigators in the Stony Brook Storm Surge Research Group, for which Bowman is the lead. Bowman, a professor of physical oceanography at Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, called for barriers to protect New York City after Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed New Orleans in 2005. In mid-October 2017, he reinforced previous calls for such action during a coastal resiliencystorm surge barrier boat tour in New York City. Credit: James Estrin/The New York Times.

"Millions of people at risk, billions of dollars of infrastructure at risk and the problems can only get worse."

Distinguished professor Malcolm J Bowman of Stony Brook University has more than four decades of study and research on coastal front and storm surges.

Seven years before superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc along our region's coastal communities, causing 60 deaths and some 19 billion dollars in damages, Bowman penned this New York Times op-ed titled "A City at Sea," predicting the New York-New Jersey Harbor would face consequential storm surges.

The op-ed written in the days following Hurricane Katrina.

"This enormous problem we're talking about the destiny of New York City, northern New Jersey and the outer boroughs Brooklyn and Queens," says Bowman.

It's hard to believe it's been seven years since Hurricane Sandy put Battery Park City where we're standing completely under water. That storm surge coming over that rail and you see right here behind me, reaching levels as high as 13 feet.

The Atlantic sea water rushing into New York Harbor, flooding to subway stations and shutting down tunnels and thoroughfares in lower Manhattan for days.

Since superstorm Sandy, Bowman has consulted with the US Army Corps of Engineers about how to protect the New York-New Jersey Harbor from future disaster due to powerful Atlantic storm. And he is a major proponent for building storm surge barriers, as you see here in this animation created by CH2 Mill, which is now Jacobs Engineering firm.

"We need bold new ideas and we need to study storm surge barriers as one of the possible solutions," says Bowman.

The US Army Corps of Engineers echoes its support for storm surge barriers as well.

In its 130 page interim report released at the end of February, the Army Corps addressed several topics including the ongoing debate to protect waterways from both storm surge and sea level rising, environmental and navigation impacts, cost and construction and coastal storm risk management.

"The study itself the entire process is fatally flawed."

John Lipscomb, vice president of advocacy for Riverkeeper New York. says the US Army Corps of Engineers recommendation to install storm surge barriers doesn't solve the problem.

"It's not rational to do a study and potentially build structures that protect against storms but do not protect against sea level rise."

Lipscomb also says storm barriers would suffocate marine life up and down the Hudson River, creating an environmental nightmare especially for marine life.

"The analogy I use is it's putting a noose around a river's neck or it's putting a bag over its head. It's restricting the River's ability to respirate and connect to the ocean," says Lipscomb.

There's no question both sides of this debate say there is an engineering solution to address both storm surge and rising sea levels in the North Atlantic region. And advocates and proponents of the Army Corps' plan are hoping these are addressed during public meetings scheduled over the next couple of months.

"Meteorologists and the climate scientists all over the world are telling us that the glaciers are melting, sea level is going to rise and increase. So this problem is not going to go away," says Bowman.

"They have to find a way to protect our cities our real estate our infrastructure without harming the River and the Harbor," says Lipscomb.

After the Army Corps of Engineers receives public input, it will released a draft report about the best way to protect the New York and New Jersey coastline.

The report is expected to be complete by January of 2020."

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/nycoastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly. Our program also produces an occasional e-newsletter,"NOAA Sea Grant's Social Media Review," via its blog, www.nyseagrant.org/blog.

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