Infrastructure protectionDutch flood-protection may be suitable for New York, other East Coast cities

Published 7 November 2012

Megastorms and disasters are not going to continue to be once in a lifetime storms, but instead become more of an annual occurrence; experts say that the combination of more frequent megastorms and rising sea levels across the east coast would forcemany cities to get serious about flood protection

Part of the Dutch engineering feat that is the Delta Project // Source:

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, city officials are trying to decide onthe best plan to make sure that the city is better protected against megastorms. Matthew Yglesias thinks the Dutch flood protection model,which uses gigantic flood gates to protect against floods from the North Sea.

Forbes notes that Yglesias says that the idea of essentially damning up New York Harbor sounds extreme,but that doing so would be similar to what the Dutch did with the Zuiderzee Works,and especially the Delta Works,projects undertaken after the 1953 flood. Some of the Dutch flood-control projects are permanent dikes, but others are open sluices that merely shut to block surgeswhen storms are coming.

It is possible toimagine something similar at the Arthur Kill and across the Verrazano Narrows,or even between Sandy Hook and Rockaway.

Projects like that wouldnot completely protectStaten Island or the beachfront parts of Brooklyn and Queens from storm surges,but they would defend Lower Manhattan, the badly flooded Red Hook part of Brooklyn, Long Island City, LaGuardia Airport, and a big swathe of New Jersey.

Forbes reports that such disasters are not going to continue to be once in a lifetime storms, but instead become more of an annual occurrence,and with rising sea levels across the east coast, many cities will have to get serious about flood protection.

Responsibility for flood protection is spread out among local, state, and federal governments, which mean standards and protection, are usually not on the same page and vary from state to state. In New York City floods and hurricanes were rarely a thought until now; even Hurricane Irene, which scared most New Yorkers, was nothing more than some rain and light winds by the time it reached the city.

Officials will now have to decide how much they are willing to invest in protecting New York. After Katrina, New Orleans got serious and poured more than $14 billion into their flood protection systems and although they have yet to see a hurricane as strong as Katrina since, they are protected from such an event.