US Army Corps of Engineers

Could sea gates stop storm surge from destroying coasts?

As the region marks the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, debate is surging over proposals to build massive concrete and steel sea gates at the mouths of major Long Island waterways to mitigate future hurricane flooding.

Coastal community residents, lawmakers, and environmentalists are at odds over U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers (ACE) studies exploring the construction of multibillion flood gates in the Rockaway, Fire Island, and Jones inlets to block Atlantic Ocean storm surge from inundating the South Shore. Also proving controversial is an idea to build a nearly mile-long barrier at the Throgs Neck Bridge to keep the Long Island Sound from swelling the East River and flooding New York City during major storms. Most ambitious of all is the suggestion to erect a 46-foot-high steel barrier between Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and Breezy Point, Queens to protect New York Harbor when hurricanes strike — but those residing outside of the gates fear it will worsen their flood damage.

“The proposals from [ACE] would only further exacerbate the flooding that occurs in these communities,” Peter Forman, commissioner of the Port Washington-Manhasset Office of Emergency Management, told reporters Thursday during a news conference before the latest public hearing on the issue. He and other critics of the plan urged ACE to instead build seawalls around Manhattan and focus on “solutions that will not damage our communities.”

Sparking the federal studies was the 2012 superstorm that killed 53 New Yorkers, displaced tens of thousands of residents, and caused $65 billion in damage. Afterward, $50 billion in federal aid was allocated to fund reconstruction and storm surge mitigation projects, such as raising structures and rebuilding dunes along the oceanfront on LI’s barrier beaches.

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