Blogs > Ecology > Army Corps announces preferred plan in storm surge barrier study for NY-NJ

Army Corps announces preferred plan in storm surge barrier study for NY-NJ

Draft plan spares the Hudson by ruling out giant barriers across the mouth of the river, and calls instead for 12 smaller storm gates across tributaries and extensive shoreline walls. This opens a new and critical phase of flood protection planning for the region.

Riverkeeper is carefully reviewing a report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that proposes a set of large-scale construction projects meant to address flood risk from coastal storms in the New York – New Jersey region over the course of decades. One thing is clear from the outset: This plan marks an important victory for the Hudson River. The Corps has ruled out the two most drastic scenarios that envisioned colossal storm surge barriers across the Hudson River where it meets the ocean.

The discussion has improved significantly since 2018, when the Corps announced an array of options and said it would select a preferred plan within months – with little transparency, public input, or even public awareness of what was at stake. Riverkeeper sounded the alarm about the two most damaging alternatives, which called for massive in-water structures comprised of gates, walls and islands which would restrict the tidal flow to the estuary, impede fish migration and threaten the very life of the Hudson River as we know it. Such barriers would fail to address flooding from sea level rise – only from storm surge.

We catalyzed a regional movement demanding rational, effective, environmentally sound plans that protect communities and allow the Hudson River to flow free. The Hudson was designated one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2019, due to the potential damage these surge barriers could cause.

The new report, and the emergence of a preferred alternative from the Corps, open a new and critical phase in public discussion over long term flood protections in the region. The Corps’ preferred plan – selected through its own cost-benefit analysis of the options – envisions 12 smaller storm surge barriers in the water across the mouths of Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, Flushing Creek and other waters surrounding New York Harbor. The $52 billion plan also includes 41 miles of barriers along the city shorelines, including floodwalls, levees, elevated promenades and deployable flood barriers.

In consultation with community partners and others, Riverkeeper will assess the proposed flood protection measures, examining the presumed benefits along with the profound impacts they could have on waterways, neighborhoods and habitats.

“Riverkeeper appreciates the actions taken by the Corps in response to public demands for transparency, time, and community input into these critically important decisions concerning future flood risk. These decisions will have profound implications over the course of decades. We remain concerned about the need to properly protect and value our living rivers and natural systems, which are vital to all of us and to our region’s future,” Tracy Brown, President and Hudson Riverkeeper, said.

With the elimination of the two most drastic and harmful plans, the Hudson is off the “Endangered” list. But the scale and complexity of the Corps’ plans demand thorough examination for their effectiveness and environmental consequences. Storm surge barriers pose numerous threats to waterways and the marine life within them. Such barriers, even if left open most of the time, can hamper sediment transport, fish migration and flushing of combined sewer overflows.

Riverkeeper supports a well coordinated, transparent process that involves local, state and federal officials working together with members of the public. We continue to advocate for comprehensive, effective flood protection that minimizes harm to the local environment, incorporates nature-based solutions where possible. Wetland buffers and managed retreat from some low-lying areas must also be part of the picture.

Together with regional partners including the Rise to Resilience coalition, we look forward to a new period of discussion throughout the Corps comment period, which extends through January 6, 2023.

Read the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (PDF) and view an interactive NYNJHAT Study Story Map for more details.

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