Assessing the Effects of Storm Surge Barriers on the Hudson River Estuary

PI:  Philip Orton

Team member / Collaborative Lead:  Bennett Brooks, Consensus Building Institute

Team member / End-Users:  Kristin Marcell, NY State DEC;  Sarah Fernald, NY State DEC

Funding agency:  NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve Science Collaborative

Project period – October 2018 through September 2019

Project Summary

Coastal cities around the country are exploring structural engineering options for defending against extreme storms and the resulting surges of ocean water that cause massive flooding. Storm surge barriers or tide gates can effectively protect harbors and minimize flooding, property damage, and loss of life during large storms. These barriers typically span the opening to a harbor or river mouth and include gates that are only closed when storm surges are expected. However, even when gates are open, the barriers reduce water flow and tidal exchange, which in turn affects water quality and ecological processes. Scientists and engineers are increasingly recognizing the need for broad research initiatives to more fully explore the advantages and disadvantages of large surge barriers.

 

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One such initiative is currently underway in the New York metropolitan area, an area with highly valuable and vulnerable coastal infrastructure. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, states of New York and New Jersey, and New York City have partnered to conduct the Harbor and Tributaries Focus Area Feasibility Study to evaluate barriers and other options to manage coastal storm risks. Since a surge barrier could have significant impacts on the Hudson River and surrounding estuary ecosystem, the Hudson River Research Reserve and partners formed a Barrier Benefits and Impacts Workgroup in December 2017, with the goal of helping to review and supplement the Army Corps’ feasibility study and Environmental Impact Assessment. This project extends the existing workgroup’s effort and facilitates the development of a collaborative research agenda to address current information needs.

  • Key objectives are:
    • Facilitating the development of a collaborative research agenda through workshops
    • Provide surge barrier/ estuary physical process modeling and related scientific analyses
    • Amplifying existing collaborative efforts by entraining other scientists, seeking funding for their involvement, and creating a final scope of future work
    • Undertake this work in a collaborative manner that brings together the scientific and research community with decision-makers/end users

A project fact sheet gives further details

 

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