New Timeline for Army Corps Study of Storm Surge Barriers for NY/NJ
Updated: Sep 29
Important News: The New York City Council is holding a public hearing October 22 at 10 a.m. to discuss the storm barrier alternatives and introduce a resolution (Res 509) which calls on the Army Corps to include the impacts of sea level rise in their evaluation of the storm barrier alternatives. SWIM and our allies will provide public testimony at the hearing. See hearing details below. Here is a link to SWIM's recent comment letter to the Army Corps.
On behalf of concerned New Yorkers, New York City Council Member Constantinides has introduced a resolution (Res. No. 509) calling for the New York/New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Feasibility Study (NYNJHAT) to consider sea level rise impacts on each of the storm barrier alternatives they are currently evaluating. This resolution and the project proposals will be discussed at a New York City Council Meeting on October 22,10 a.m. New York City Council, 16th Floor Committee Room, 250 Broadway, New York, NY 10007.
Update: New Timeline for the Study and Decision
In response to public pressure, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to allow more time and transparency before advancing any of its flood protection plans for New York Harbor.
The Corps announced this month that it would revamp the timeline for its NY/NJ Harbor storm surge barrier study and hold off until Spring 2020 before narrowing down the six current options to one or two.
Selection of plans. Instead of “winnowing down” the six conceptual plans in November 2018, the Corps has postponed that pre-selection step to Spring 2020. This will enable the public to better research the environmental and community consequences of in-water barriers, a feature in four of the plans (Alternatives 2, 3A, 3B and 4) and the advantages of shoreline measures (Alternatives 1 and 5).
Interim report. The Corps will produce an “interim report” in early 2019 with additional detail on the six alternatives and a preliminary analysis of their relative costs and benefits. The Corps said during its October 3 meeting at the Westchester County Center that it would share some studies used in the preliminary analysis. This is significant: The preliminary cost benefit analysis and shared studies would be the first actual substance – hard data and design details – that the public could use for its own analysis.
Public meetings. The Corps said it would hold a number of meetings in 2019 to gather feedback on the interim report, and release a Draft Feasibility Report / Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement in Spring 2020 on its “tentatively selected plan(s).” The rest of the timeline is unchanged: A “Chief’s Report” is still due in Summer 2022, followed by a recommendation to Congress. Should a project be authorized for construction, money would be appropriated and the project would be designed in more detail.
For more information about the new timeline and the latest details about the study click here.
Background Information about the Study
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering six different plans for massive offshore barriers and/or land-based floodwalls intended to “manage the risk of coastal storm damage” to New York Harbor and the Hudson Valley. The six alternatives are under consideration as part of the New York – New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries (NYNJHAT) Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study, affecting more than 2,150 square miles.
The decisions made by the Army Corps, NY State DEC, and the City about the barriers will have an impact on all New Yorkers from New York City up to the Troy dam.
Now, through November 5th, 2018, is our opportunity to let the Army Corps, DEC, and City hear from the public about the study and the alternatives proposed within it. You can view a video on each of the proposed barriers here.
Here is a link to a great fact sheet on the issues that SWIM Coalition member Hudson Riverkeeper has produced.
To see what public officials and experts are saying about the study and proposed barriers, you can read their comments here.
Please scroll down to see what stakeholders are saying about the proposed barriers and how you can help by sending in a comment letter to the Army Corps.
Special thanks to Hudson Riverkeeper for gathering the facts and keeping us all informed about this timely matter. The consequences and impacts of these decisions could literally last centuries.
You can use this form letter generated by Hudson Riverkeeper to develop your comment letter about the study.
Comments/Concerns from Local Stewards :
From Day One, these offshore barriers would start to restrict tidal flow, contaminant and sediment transport, and migration of fish. Unrestricted tidal exchange is essential to move sediment and flush contaminants. If tidal exchange is restricted, sewage and other contaminants are likely to flush to the ocean more slowly, which could result in more pollution for our already contaminated waterways.
Only one of the construction alternatives, calling for shoreline-based measures such as dunes, dikes and levees, is even worth considering. Shoreline-based measures are the only structures that will protect NYC and other communities against both storm surge AND sea level rise flooding – while leaving our rivers to run free.
Barrier projects throughout the harbor would cost an estimated $10 billion to $36 billion to build, and $100 million to $2.5 billion to maintain every year (and remember, a project of this scale rarely comes in at the estimated cost). The Army Corps has said that maintenance and operation costs would NOT be covered by the federal government. All this money would be spent, and still harbor-wide barriers wouldn’t do a thing, long term, to protect against permanent flooding due to sea level rise.
To submit input on the Army Corps Storm Barriers study :
1. Submit written information, comments, or ideas to: NYNJHarbor.TribStudy@usace.army.mil with the subject line: "Scoping Input"
2. Go to the project website: (http://www.nan.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Projects-in-New-York-New-Jersey-Harbor-Tributaries-Focus-Area-Feasibility-Study/) and submit a comment through the contact link with subject "Scoping Input"
3. Mail your comments to: Nancy Brighton, Chief, Watershed Section, Environmental Analysis Branch, Planning Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 26 Federal Plaza, Room 2151 New York, NY 10279-0090
More Background Information for Comment Letters:
Waterway stakeholders are very concerned about the impacts of all of the alternatives currently under review and have requested that the public review period be extended so that we can carefully review and fully understand the social, economic, and environmental impacts of each of the five alternatives the Army Corps is considering. Here are just some of the questions that many stakeholders have about the barriers and that the Hudson Riverkeeper has listed on their website:
If we rely entirely on offshore barriers to protect us from floods, won’t that expose NYC and the entire Hudson Valley to enormous risk in the event of catastrophic failure? All low-lying areas from NYC to Troy would be inundated if the barriers were to fail. Man-made structures are not invincible against the overwhelming power of the Atlantic.
Will barriers throughout the harbor and offshore deflect storm surge to shorelines and communities outside the barriers? Will the Jersey shore, the south shore of Long Island or the Lower Bay of New York Harbor be more flooded by storm surge deflected by the barriers? Modelers suggest that communities in western Long Island Sound, just east of a possible barrier at Throgs Neck Bridge, would experience significantly higher storm tides because of surge deflection by the barrier.
What happens if we get a storm or storms that cause coastal flooding AND precipitation, such as we experienced during Irene and Lee in 2011? Scientists have suggested that if harbor-wide barrier gates were closed, New York City and numerous communities on the Hudson could backflood due to interior stormwater that is unable to escape to the ocean.
These barriers are meant to protect against storms – but what about sea level rise? Here’s a fact to remember: massive in-water barriers with gates that regularly open and close for shipping will do nothing to protect New York City and Hudson River communities against sea level rise
Key points raised at the July 2018 public meetings:
• We need information. We can’t comment effectively, as is our legal right, without detailed information and data on the social, economic and environmental impacts of each alternative. The PowerPoint slides and the fact sheet provided to the public to date are completely inadequate. The Corps needs to publish comprehensive information about all the alternatives being considered, including the environmental impacts on the Hudson and the Harbor.
• We need more public meetings. The meetings recently posted for July 9-11 are too few, announced too late, and were not advertised so that the public would actually be aware. The Army Corps and the other involved agencies need to provide numerous, comprehensive and well advertised public meetings throughout the affected area, which includes Long Island Sound, New York Harbor, New Jersey coastal waters and the Hudson to Troy.
• We need time to become informed and to comment. A 30-day comment period, for a proposal with consequences that could last centuries, or millennia, is unacceptable. By contrast, the U.S. Coast Guard, in seeking public feedback on designating new anchorage grounds on the Hudson, initially offered a three-month comment period on an “advance notice of public rulemaking,” then extended that by an additional three months, which allowed members of the public time to become informed and voice their opinions.
• Only one of the alternatives is even acceptable so far. Alternative 5, described as “Perimeter Only,” is the only acceptable alternative the U.S. Army Corps has presented to date. Only “shoreline based measures” should be employed. They will protect our communities without killing our river and tributaries.
• Don’t address the risk of storm surge without also addressing sea level rise. Whatever we build now must serve to protect us from both.