As sea levels continue to rise and climate change threatens to spank the northeast with future storms, urban planners in the area have been struggling to find ways to keep the water quite literally at bay. Staten Island was one of the places hit worst by Hurricane Sandy, and now it’s possible that a $579 million levee could be built in the borough to protect residents from flooding during future storms. But will the proposed 20-foot-high wall be enough to ward off surging stormwaters?
At the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy last fall, the city’s progress report revealed that great precautions had already been taken – in the form of 26,000 linear feet of dunes that had been packed on Staten Island – to protect the area from future flooding. At that time, $400 million had been earmarked to build armored levees along the borough’s Midland Beach and East Shore neighborhoods. Now, we’re learning that the Army Corps of Engineers has a new proposal for a storm levee that could be made possible almost entirely by federal and city funding.
The $579 million plan centers on a “reinforced ridge” running four miles south from the Verrazano Bridge to Oakwood Beach, and raised 20 feet above sea-level. Skeptics aren’t sure that would be tall enough, but the Army Corps plan has that covered, with a footnote about adding more height should the rise of sea levels begin to accelerate at a faster rate. Indeed, some of the world’s top climate scientists have already warned that coastal cities like New York may be completely uninhabitable within just a few decades, thanks to the rising waters.
Almost two-thirds of the project’s cost would come from the 2013 federal Sandy Aid bill, and the city has pitched in $60 million already. Although the state hasn’t made any commitment yet towards the $140 million it’s been asked to foot, the project is moving forward with two public information sessions hosted this week by the Army Corps of Engineers.