New concept for New York, New Jersey storm barriers

Published 7 April 2009

With worries about rising sea level and more intense storm, British engineering firm Harlow offers a new concept for protecting New York City and parts of the new Jersey coast against storm surges

One result of global warming is the rise in sea level — but scientists point out that sea levels do not rise evenly. Rather, some parts of the ocean will experience more dramatic rise than others. Unfortunately for people who live on the east coast of the United States, models show that the level of the Atlantic Ocean will rise most precipitously off the mid-Atlantic and New England coast, submerging large parts of the eastern united States under water (see, for example, “”New York City Is Especially Vulnerable to Rise in Sea Level,” 16 march 2009 HS Daily Wire, and “Ocean Water Rising Unevenly; Washington, D.C. May Be Submerged,” 6 February 2009 HS Daily Wire).

It is thus a good thing that two engineers from engineering group Halcrow have come up with a conceptual design for a storm-surge barrier to protect the New York metropolitan area.  The potential for storm surges, along with rising sea levels as a result of climate change, is a growing concern in delta cities around the world. Such a surge would cause significant damage to real-estate and economic activities in and around New York.

To prevent such an event from happening, Halcrow was asked to provide ideas of what storm-surge barriers aimed at protecting the New York and New Jersey metropolitan region from severe coastal flooding might look like. Graeme Forsyth and Dennis Padron’s idea is to build a barrier that would stretch across the entrance of the outer harbor of New York and New Jersey.

The New York-New Jersey Outer Harbor Gateway involves a five-mile flood defense extending between the Rockaway Peninsula and Sandy Hook, plus the reinforcement of some 10 miles of the natural defenses along these low-lying peninsulas. The barrier would include two gates in the main navigation channel, with each gate having two leaves, each measuring the length of a football pitch. The barrier would also include smaller gates for two secondary navigation channels and 50 sluice gates, each 80 feet (24 meters) across. The concept would allow for a road to run along the top of the causeway connecting the two states.

Halcrow’s concept is based on a similar project that the company has been involved with in St. Petersburg, where the Russian government has funded a 15-mile-long barrier, which is due for completion in 2010.

Those interested in water infrastructure and engineering would know that Harlow has recently won a triple project win at this year’s Waterways Renaissance Awards run by The Waterways Trust and British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA). Now in their seventh year, the awards recognize best practice in sustainable waterway regeneration and development throughout the United Kingdom.

  • The British Waterways led project involved five years’ development of a 20 acre historic site in South Leicestershire. Halcrow has been providing specialist support to British Waterways in developing designs that are appropriate and in keeping with the unique historic nature of the site.
  • Halcrow also won the Innovation Achievement Award for their work, as part of a team, on the Washlands Flood Storage Area Improvement Scheme in Dagenham. The project involved innovative techniques such as deep dry cement mixing beneath the embankments to improve the geotechnical characteristics of the peat material. Materials gained from off-site works were used to improve the stability of the embankments, increasing the sustainability of the project and on-and-off-stream ponds, wetland areas, wet meadows, dry meadows and acid grasslands were created to protect key species during the works. Habitats were also restored upon completion.
  • Halcrow also took away the Flood Defense Award for its work on the Boscastle Valency Flood Defense Scheme. The project aims to reduce the frequency and consequences of flooding from the River Valency and thereby make Boscastle a safer place. The flood defense system works with the natural processes of the river and integrates with the sustainable regeneration of the village. The result has been the creation of a flood risk management scheme providing a 1 in 75 year standard of defense.