A $119B seawall still might not protect Manhattan, critics say

Army Corps of Engineers is studying the plan, which has already attracted opposition

TRD NEW YORK /
Jan.January 20, 2020 10:05 AM
Army Corps of Engineers Commander Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite and flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (inset) (Credit: Getty Images)

Army Corps of Engineers Commander Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite and flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (inset) (Credit: Getty Images)

New York could get a $119 billion sea wall to help defend the city from future Sandy-like storms, but the tentative plan has already attracted fierce opposition and criticism.

The barrier is the largest of five options the Army Corps of Engineers is studying to protect the city, according to the New York Times. Supporters say a barrier miles from the Manhattan coastline is the best solution for maintaining New Yorkers’ access to their waterfront while still protecting people, properties and landmarks. However, many environmental and resilience planning experts have described it as an oversimplified idea that doesn’t address multiple serious climate threats, such as storm runoff and flooding from high tides, and could make things worse.

The Corps has stressed that its designs can change and that it is not committed to any of the five options it has been studying.

The fastest and cheapest option the Corps is studying would be a nine-year $14 billion project that would only include shore-based measures. A cost-benefit analysis favors options costing between $43 billion and $47 billion that consist largely of several smaller barriers in places such as the entrances to Newtown Creek, Jamaica Bay and the Gowanus Canal.

“Barriers are a shiny object, a silver-bullet fix luring us away from where [we] need to go,” Paul Gallay, head of the Hudson advocacy group Riverkeeper, told the Times. “The danger of one big wall is that if it fails, we’re all in danger. We need layered solutions.” [NYT] – Eddie Small


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