Infrastructure Firms Readied Design Concepts in 2009 for Sea Surge Barriers to Protect NYC and NJ

8 November 2012 (LPAC)  In 2009, a seminar, titled “Against the Deluge: Storm Surge Barriers to Protect New York City,” was held in March by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) New York Metropolitan Section Infrastructure Group and the New York Academy of Sciences. It was attended by New York City’s Office of Emergency Management and the Army Corps of Engineers. They discussed the likelihood of an impending sea surge flood. Four firms gave presentations on their concept designs for surge barriers to defend New York City/New Jersey: Arcadis, Halcrow/CH2M Hill, Parsons Brickerhoff, and Camp Dresser & McKee.

Arcadis, the Holland-based, international infrastructure firm, has extensive experience with surge barriers in The Netherlands. For New York, Arcadis proposes a barrier situated in the Verrazano Narrows, connecting the Upper New York Bay with the Atlantic Ocean. The barrier would be 4,800 ft. in length, with a large sliding sector gate of 860 ft. This would allow the largest vessels to pass through during normal weather, and it could be closed during a storm. (A 37-image slide show of this 209 presentation is circulating on line, by Associated Press and other media).

An Arcadis press release of April 2, 2009 summarized: “Parts of the New York and New Jersey Metropolitan Area (20 million inhabitants) are below the maximum water level of a probable storm surge, resulting from Northeast storms and hurricanes… Although the area is not below sea level, the risk of human casualties is also present, as tunnels and the subway systems may flood. The proposed barrier in the Verrazano Narrows, combined with two other barriers at the East River and the Arthur Kill, will minimize the danger of a storm surge entering from the Atlantic Ocean into the Upper New York Bay. The costs of the Verrazano Barrier, roughly estimated at 6.5 billion dollars, may prove economically preferable to accepting the chance of flooding.”

The CH2M Hill plan, done by its Halcrow subsidiary, is for a levee-like barrier to run five miles from the Sandy Hook promontory in New Jersey northward to the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, on Long Island. (Diagrams are on the site of http://www.halcrow.com) This would leave Rockaway and Long Island exposed, but protect the entire Inner Bay. Gaps would permit passage of vessels, the outflow of river water, and tidal ebbs and flows. In the event of storm surge, movable gates would close off New York Bay from the sea surge. The barrier would protect from a 30 ft surge. Halcrow worked on the same kind of project to protect St. Petersburg, Russia, completed in 2010.

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo concurs with the idea that now is the time to seriously consider sea barriers, because, he says, it is the responsiblity of government. However, Mayor Bloomberg snarled his opposition repeatedly this past week. “We cannot build a big barrier reef off the shore to stop the waves from coming in,” he said Oct. 29

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