Urging Comprehensive Environmental Impact Study of In-Water Storm Surge Barriers

Letter to U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

August 8, 2018

As the Assemblymember representing much of Lower Manhattan’s west side, I am deeply invested in both the health of the Hudson River and in protecting the communities I serve from flood damage. I witnessed the damage that Super Storm Sandy wrought on New York’s coastal communities firsthand, and am glad that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is undertaking a coastal risk management study (CSRM) to evaluate the impacts of a number of proposals to mitigate storm surges.
I am deeply concerned about the potential environmental impacts of the in-water storm surge barriers being studied in the CSRM, and am writing to request that USACE’s environmental analysis include comprehensive environmental impact studies. I believe it is essential to understand the impacts of in-water barriers on the flow of waters in and out of New York Harbor; the migration patterns and population levels of fish and mollusks throughout the study area; subaquatic and intertidal vegetation; sedimentation rates and contamination levels in sediment; water quality, water temperature, and dissolved oxygen levels and salinity throughout the study area; nutrient concentrations and frequency of algae blooms; and the possible back-flooding inland of the barriers due to heavy rain events. Additionally, I think it is important that we understand estimates of future costs to state taxpayers for future operation and maintenance of potential mitigations.
The Hudson River estuary functions like a living, breathing organism and closing it off will likely have negative impacts on a myriad of species as well as crucial tidal cleansing. I hope that USACE will undertake careful study of the number of threats that in-water storm surge barriers will likely have, and that your recommendation will be one that considers both the needs of residents and the needs of the coastal ecosystem.