Tell Gov. Hochul and Gov. Murphy: We need smarter flood protection plans - Revamp the Army Corps' proposal

NY Harbor 2019
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ $52.6 billion proposal for 12 storm surge barriers and shoreline hardening measures in New York Harbor would harm our waterways without giving us the flood protection we need. New York State must insist on smarter investments that support life in our rivers and safeguard against the full range of flood risks we are facing – not just storm surges.

The New York - New Jersey metropolitan region needs long term flood protection plans that address the full combination of flooding hazards that are intensifying with climate change – including flooding from sea level rise, heavy rainstorms, rising groundwater, and storm surges. We also need solutions that work in harmony with nature and avoid harm to our living rivers.

Unfortunately, those essential goals are not supported by the proposal from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a $52.6 billion suite of construction projects in the New York - New Jersey Harbor. The Corps’ plan centers around the construction of 12 storm surge barriers – massive systems made of gates, walls and artificial islands – across the waterways that feed the harbor, including Flushing Creek, Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal. The associated shore-based measures would include seawalls, levees, and floodwalls to address increased flooding caused by the surge barriers.

The Corps only evaluated flood risk from storm surges, which skewed the analysis in favor of large in-water storm surge barriers designed to be used only during “100-year” scale storms. What’s more, the massive structures supporting the gates would damage natural habitat, harm aquatic life, and trap contaminants in waters already burdened by pollution and degradation.

We deserve a better plan! These gates are not the answer. Shoreline walls are no doubt part of any comprehensive plan, but we need sensible layers of flood protection that start with natural features like reefs and dunes; include policies that limit further construction in our flood zones; provide floodproofing strategies; and include fair buyouts in areas that cannot be protected.

Riverkeeper and a broad coalition are calling on the Corps to revamp its study so that we achieve the protection we need, while prioritizing nature-based solutions and protection for our most vulnerable residents. Congress has already directed the Corps to follow this approach. Yet the Corps maintains a myopic focus on storm surges.

This is the moment for local action. New York State and New Jersey, partners in the Corps’ study, have the power to stop the current plan and move us in the right direction. Urge Governor Hochul and Governor Murphy to represent the public interest, protect our environment, and insist on the effective coastal flood protections we deserve.


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