Army: Building seawalls, storm gates will protect NYC area amid climate change

In a report on a coastal resiliency study for the New York area, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has laid out its plans to protect New York Harbor from flooding. 

The study area included 25 counties in New Jersey and New York that are home to some 16 million people. The plan is to build seawalls, levees, and 12 storm surge gates. 

"This plan is probably our last, best chance to protect communities from this triple threat of storm surge, sea level rise, and cloudbursts like we had last year with Ida," said Paul Gallay, the director of the Resilient Coastal Communities Project at Columbia Climate School.

Galley said the measures would protect 900 miles of coastline. 

The storm surge gates would close during storms. They would be located in Jamaica Bay, Coney Island Creek, Newtown Creek, the Gowanus Canal, Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Creek, Flushing Creek, and between New Jersey and Staten Island. 

"There's 40 different measures the Army Corps identified, that they could possibly bring in to protect us in all of this different coastline that we're trying to protect," Galley said. "Structural measures like walls and gates and berms, ways we can improve infrastructure inland so that storm water is managed better, natural solutions so you have more wetlands to contain the storm." 

The project would cost $52 billion. It must be first approved by federal, state and local officials. If the green light is given, work would begin in 2030 and be completed by 2044. 

The Army Corps of Engineers completed the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries coastal storm risk management feasibility study in partnership with several federal, state, and local agencies. 

"The Study Area encompasses tidally influenced areas within the New York metropolitan area, which includes New York City, the country's most populous and densely populated city, as well as the six largest cities in the State of New Jersey," the study's report states. 

The study area encompasses 2,150 square miles in all or parts of Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Essex, Hudson, Union, Somerset, Middlesex, and Monmouth counties in New Jersey and Rensselaer, Albany, Columbia, Greene, Dutchess, Ulster, Putnam, Orange, Westchester, Rockland, Bronx, New York, Queens, Kings, Richmond, and Nassau counties in New York.

Col. Matthew Luzzatto, the commander of the New York District of the Army Corps, called this a "significant milestone" in creating a "more resilient" coastline in New York and New Jersey.

"The Corps has been tasked with solving the Nation's toughest engineering challenges, which includes making communities more adaptable and stronger in the face of powerful coastal storms that are becoming more frequent," Luzzatto said in statement. "This study will ensure we are prepared to do everything possible to provide additional coastal storm risk reduction measures to the communities we serve."