PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
STATEMENT BY THE NEW YORK-NEW JERSEY STORM SURGE WORKING GROUP
School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University
Hurricane Florence is another wake up call for the New York-New Jersey-Long Island region. Six years ago Sandy devastated the New York-New Jersey-Long Island Metropolitan region. Unfortunately, virtually nothing has been built to prevent a recurrence of its damage. We should not have to wait for a second superstorm before we act to protect the nation’s most densely populated and economically important region.
While some environmental advocates and New York City officials have called for caution and construction of half-measures to protect portions of the region piecemeal, these will leave a million and more residents unprotected, many of them living in low-income communities. This local approach will also not protect our most valuable infrastructure systems and economic assets.
Although Hurricane Florence now threatens the Carolinas, residents of the New York-New Jersey-Long Island Metropolitan region should be very alarmed by two characteristics of this storm and other recent hurricanes that will make future storms an even greater threat to our Metro region than Sandy was six years ago.
WAKE UP CALL FOR THE NEW YORK NEW JERSEY AND LONG ISLAND REGION
We did not heed the first wake up call from Superstorm Sandy. Our Metro region is just as unprotected and vulnerable as before Sandy. Millions of residents still live at risk.
New York City has ignored the imperative for a regional solution that transcends geographic and political boundaries and is pursuing a local solution which is likely to lead to failure in the decades ahead.
Florence’s rapid development from a tropical depression into a catastrophic category 4 hurricane in less than 48 hours is most alarming. The prediction is that the storm will stall for days near the coastline, creating even higher storm surges of longer duration and the potential for severe riverine and urban flooding due to predictions of 20+ inches of rainfall.
Meteorologists believe that both of these characteristics appear to be the result of climate change and are likely to shape development of future hurricanes that could threaten our region.
Here in the NY-NJ Metro region we dodged the bullet this time because a high pressure system over the North Atlantic forced Florence into a track that now threatens the Southeast Coast.
But we can be sure that future extreme storm events will again cause devastating storm surges across the metropolitan region.
And while it would be impossible to build hundreds of miles of seawalls to protect the vast low-lying coastline of the Carolinas and its low-density ribbon development from storm surges, we can protect our densely-developed region from similar devastation by building a system of offshore storm surge sea gates, as more than a dozen other global cities have already done.
WHERE WOULD THE SEA GATES BE LOCATED AND HOW MUCH WOULD THEY COST?
The first of these sea gates would be a five-mile long string of opening gates stretching from Breezy Point in the Rockaways, Long Island to Sandy Hook, NJ. A system of enhanced sand berms would stretch from the on-shore ends of each barrier along both peninsulas to prevent flood waters from breaching these low-lying barrier beaches. A second sea gate would be built across the northern end of the East River near the Throgs Neck Bridge to prevent Long Island Sound storm surges from inundating the city from the east.
This system would protect many hundreds of miles of low-lying floodable shoreline in both states, as well as all three major airports, rail and roadway tunnels, seaports, iconic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, hospitals and all of the region’s major business and population centers. Both gates would consist of movable sections that would remain open except during threatened storm surges, to permit unrestricted movement of tides, fish, marine mammals and sediments in settled weather, yet leave intact all of the natural features of the Hudson River and New York Harbor estuaries. This system would utilize established technology that has protected London and the Netherlands from storm surges for decades.
This system would cost an estimated $10-20 billion. While this seems like a very high cost, it is far less than the losses from Superstorm Sandy of more than $75 billion value of the region at risk with its $1.5 trillion economy. Further, it would protect the region for a century or more from threatened storm surges and prevent hundreds of billions in economic losses and loss of life.
NEW ORLEANS IS NOW PROTECTED FOLLOWING HURRICANE KATRINA
Following Katrina, the US Army Corps of Engineers built a similar $14.5 billion regional system to protect New Orleans from future hurricanes, and completed the project on-time and on-budget in less than five years. The Army Corps is now conducting a feasibility study of alternative measures to protect our region from storm surges, and we are pleased that one of the alternatives being considered is the Stony Brook Storm Surge Working Group’s proposed off-shore sea gate system.
The Storm Surge Working Group is strongly urging the Army Corps to proceed with a thorough examination of this alternative, and that if chosen, it be built on a similar accelerated construction schedule.
We must demand construction of a regional protection system that will protect the entire region from future devastation caused by future hurricanes like and worse than Florence.
For further information contact:
Robert Yaro, Adjunct Professor, SoMAS
William Golden, Adjunct Professor, SoMAS