Public Comment Deadline April 1 for Interim Report on Back Bays Study

Mar 06, 2019
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Storm-surge barriers, levees, marsh restoration and living shorelines are among the solution possibilities discussed in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ interim report on flood mitigation strategy for the state’s back bay areas. The Corps, in partnership with the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, launched its New Jersey Back Bays Coastal Storm Risk Management Study – which encompasses 950 square miles and nearly 3,400 miles of waterways in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties – to protect coastal communities against flooding.

The ACE and DEP are currently seeking public comment on this recent report on the study, available in full at nap.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/New-Jersey-Back-Bays-Coastal-Storm-Risk-Management. Deadline for comment is April 1.

According to the Army Corps, “The study team prepared the interim report to present preliminary findings and a focused array of alternative plans that manage risk and reduce damages from coastal storms. The document describes the engineering, economic, social and environmental analyses conducted to date. The focused array of alternative plans described in the report and future study analyses will ultimately result in the selection of a recommended plan for the region while minimizing environmental, social and economic impacts.”

The Corps added, “Some of the alternatives under consideration include structural solutions such as storm surge barriers, tide gates, levees and floodwalls; non-structural solutions such as elevation of homes; and nature-based features such as marsh restoration and the creation of living shorelines.”

“New Jersey is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise caused by climate change,” DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe stated. Protecting the state’s estuarine areas, the report notes, presents unique challenges due to New Jersey’s “combination of low-lying topography, sea level change, densely populated residential and commercial areas, extensive low-lying infrastructure and degraded coastal ecosystems.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the N.J. Sierra Club, believes the DEP should focus on elevating properties and securing buyouts rather than expensive solutions such as floodwalls. He is also concerned that “the study does not look at sea level rise and impacts in the future. These flood-protective designs are made for storms of the past, not for the storms happening now and in the future.

“New Jersey needs to create a comprehensive approach to the shore that includes mitigation of climate change, adaptation for sea level rise and restoration of natural systems,” he added.

Since launching the back bays study in 2016, the DEP and Army Corps have held public workshops and meetings to offer insight to the development of the interim report. The study, which is equally cost-shared by the DEP and the federal government, was developed out of the Corps’ North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study and was undertaken after Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in October 2012.

Once the study is completed, the Army Corps will issue a decision document with a recommended plan. After the plan is approved by Congress, design and construction would occur as funding is made available.

The Army Corps will host a webinar on the report from 9 to 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 14, at webmeeting.att.com. The meeting number is 511-468-6455, participant code is 644897 and conference ID is  ZTS1401. The teleconference dial-in number and participant code is 800-230-1074, and the confirmation number is 464452. Webinar space is limited and demand could exceed capacity; however, a recording will be posted later to the study webpage.

To provide comments on the report, email PDPA-NAP@usace.army.mil or submit comments in writing to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Planning Division, Wanamaker Building, 100 Penn Square E., Philadelphia, Pa. 19107. 

— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

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