News > News > Storm Surge Barriers > Riverkeeper calls for revamp of deeply flawed study on storm surge risks in NY-NJ metro region

Riverkeeper calls for revamp of deeply flawed study on storm surge risks in NY-NJ metro region

Commenting on Army Corps’ $52 billion proposal for storm surge protection, Riverkeeper urges a broader approach that avoids environmental harm and addresses the full combination of flood risks – sea level rise, tidal flooding, rising groundwater and heavy rainfall – not just storm surge.

In comments filed this week, Riverkeeper urges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to revamp its deeply flawed study on how to reduce flood damage from major storms in the New York – New Jersey metropolitan region and comply with legislative mandates to broaden its scope.

The Corps’ New York – New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study is narrowly focused on addressing the risk of flood damage from storm surges. Using a skewed cost-benefit analysis, the Corps has recommended a $52 billion suite of projects. Key to the plan is the construction of 12 massive storm gates across the mouths of waterways that sustain the New York Harbor estuary, such as Flushing Creek, Newtown Creek and Gowanus Canal. Larger systems – such as a barrier envisioned at the entrance to Jamaica Bay – would include artificial islands, sills and other permanent structures built into the water.

The surge gates, designed to stay open except in “100 year” storms, do nothing to protect against flooding from sea level rise or heavy rainfall. They are at best a short-term solution that fails to address the risks from other types of flooding, such as rising groundwaters, tidal flooding already affecting low-lying areas of the region, or precipitation-related flooding like what New York experienced during Hurricane Ida.

The surge gates also threaten ecological harm. They would interfere with tidal energy, reduce sediment transport, and trap contaminants in waters already burdened by pollution. Marine habitats will be permanently altered by the proposed gates, and water quality will decline. What little habitat remains in New York Harbor – marshes, sea grass, oysters – would be imperiled. The Army Corps’ cost-benefit analysis fails to put a value on rivers and their life, including endangered species like the Atlantic sturgeon.

“The proposed storm barriers would expose certain areas to increased flood risk and greatly harm the environment, all without reducing – and perhaps worsening – flooding from sea level rise,” Riverkeeper wrote in its comments, submitted to the Corps March 13. “Given the numerous deficiencies in the study … it has become clear that the only realistic path forward is for the States of New York and New Jersey and the City of New York to step forward and fulfill their duties to their co-constituents by co-leading the Study.”

Riverkeeper, along with partners throughout the region, are also calling for New Jersey, New York State and New York City to invoke their rights under the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 and engage with the Corps in developing locally-driven solutions that provide more comprehensive protection, working with nature, not against it. Throughout New York City – an archipelago with a multitude of waterways and coastal habitats – there are many approaches and opportunities to protect neighborhoods from the full combination of storm surges, rainfall and rising waters.

“Many communities already have local plans that reflect their priorities. These local plans need to be the starting point of any massive investment that will shape the future of our region,” said Tracy Brown, President and Hudson Riverkeeper. “Prioritizing nature-based infrastructure, preserving access to our remaining natural places, and protecting our most vulnerable should be the guiding principles in this planning process. The Corps’ proposal – that we invest billions in in-water surge barriers – is misguided and shortsighted. It does not reflect the values of our residents or the smart, long-term investments we need. We can and we must do better, because our future, in fact, depends on it.”

Read a summary of Riverkeeper’s position here >

Read our full comments here >

More of Riverkeeper’s advocacy materials, including a recorded webinar, are available at

Contact: Leah Rae, [email protected], (914) 715-6821

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