Cuomo Panel Says 'Maybe' to Massive Hurricane Barrier

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The preliminary report (PDF) by an expert panel does not make New York’s solution to climate change look easy.

The NYS 2100 Commission, appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to look at big-picture, long-term projects, notes that soft edges like dunes, oyster reefs and wetlands, might absorb some strong waves and some excess storm water. But they “do not serve to protect against still water flooding.” In other words, that 14-foot storm surge would still have come over the sea walls and flooded our streets.

The commission also took a look at building a concrete-and-steel hurricane barrier across New York Harbor, which would have gates to allow ships to pass through most of the time, but would be able to close tight before heavy storms.

“If such a barrier had been in place,” during Sandy, the report says, “it likely would have prevented the flooding of the subways, tunnels, airports, wastewater treatment plans and other critical infrastructure.”

But the commission seems to take a dim view of what a barrier can do long-term, noting that it wouldn’t do anything to prevent sea level rise and any resulting flooding of coastal areas.

The New York Times reproduced part of a draft version of the report before, but omitted potentially the most exciting chapter: the one that discussed the hurricane barrier question.

Ultimately, though, the commission did not take a strong position for or against a barrier, instead urging the state to study the issue … which is also a route recommended by Senator Charles Schumer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a mayoral hopeful. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been more skeptical about such a barrier, and has not included it in the scope of studies that he commissioned.

Read what Transportation Nation says about the transit recommendations here.