Speech Before City Council’s
Environmental Committee 10/22/15
My name is Bob Trentlyon, and I am delighted to appear before your committee for the third time. It is good to see Bill Murray again. I live in the Chelsea area and most of my working life I published neighborhood newspapers. I have been an exponent of storm surge barriers (SSBs) for the New York- New Jersey region since 2009. I am associated with a group of engineers and scientists who are headed by Prof. Malcolm Bowman from Stony Brook University. The last time I was here your committee voted in favor of studying SSBs, but I don’t know whether you ever addressed the matter.
In the spring of 2012, I addressed the Borough Board and told them a storm surge is coming. Sandy came that fall. I expect that there is a good chance of having a major storm within a ten year period. Two years ago, I went to London and visited the Storm Surge Barrier which keeps storm waters out
of Central London. This year, I visited the Delta Project in the Netherlands and got a good look at how that country is now dealing with its storm surges. The Delta Project was built of massive berms probably 100 feet high with a two lane highway on its top. I also went to see the massive gates at Rotterdam which control water levels in the harbor of the largest port in Europe. What I learned from both of these visits was the acceptance of these barriers by both the people of England and Holland.
This July, the Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to study the waters surrounding the Hudson River and the western part of Long Island Sound. After this three year study, the Corps may commence building a storm surge barrier between the Rockaways and Sandy Hook, NJ.
This is a narrow part of the Sound, only five miles across and only 20 feet deep, except for the dredged part which is the Ambrose Channel. Based on the experience of Katrina, it would be wise to build a second, and much smaller SSB at Throgs Neck.
I think it would be wise for NYC to accept that this is happening and to participate in the project.
Reflections of Ocean Surge in England:
CRDC’s Visit to London’s Gates (2013)
I was fortunate to visit the Thames River Barrier in April. Four Trentlyons, Betty, Jason, Jessica andI, were the visiting party and Martin Earlam, Chief Engineer of the Thames River Barrier, was our guide for a two hour tour. The Barrier was created in response to a natural disaster. In 1953 there was a severe flooding in the Thames Estuary, resulting in the drowning deaths of over 300 people. Twenty years later, after the study of multiple possibilities, the Thames River Barriers at
Woolwich Reach, east of Central London, were commenced. It took eight years to build the 10 barriers across the river. During that same period, the banks of the river were raised substantially. The cost of building the barriers was shared: the national government paid 75% and Greater London paid 25%. I asked Martin what the cost benefit/ risk factor was. He said that it was $1 billion cost benefit with a risk factor of $164 billion. When I asked Martin whether there were other barriers of a similar nature, he said that both South Korea and Germany have used the same design of Rising Sector Gate for water control. Parliament has also passed a law providing sea walls can be raised whenever there is the need. There is now a 100 year plan. Calculations have been made to estimate how high the water level will rise in a set period. The British engineers will build to the needed height which is expected to be needed around 2050. As for the Thames Barriers currently in place, every fortnight a different barrier is examined to make sure it is working properly. Quick simultaneous examination of all ten barriers is done monthly with a thorough test done annually. London got its storm surge barriers in 1983. New York City is now thirty years behind London and our problem is infinitely greater and our population is much more in harms way.
We have to act now!
Some Lesson’s Learned from
Hurricane Isaac (2011)
When NYC gets hit by a major hurricane we will have to stand in line with all the other coastal cities that have also been hit to secure federal funds.
This past August, much to everyone’s surprise, another hurricane blew through New Orleans, only seven years after the catastrophic Katrina. Most of us believed that a hundred year storm couldn’t possibly return in seven years. We further learned that the improved New Orleans levees, that now protect that city, were planned and built within only six years.
Someone jokingly said it was done on the rule of 15: length 15 miles, cost $15 billion, and height15 feet. In two different studies, storm surge barriers to protect much of New York City, is estimated to cost $10 billion. The storm damage to New York City of a category 3 or 4 hurricane is estimated at $200 billion.
Governor Jindal of Louisiana now wants to spend $50 billion more on a coastal master plan. When NYC gets hit by a major hurricane we will have to stand in line with all the other coastal cities that have also been hit to secure federal funds. An encouraging remark was made by Robert A. Turner Jr., regional director for Greater New Orleans, who said “Unless you have a large population at risk and great economic assets at risk, its difficult nowadays to get those kinds of projects authorized and funded by the federal government”. That quote describes us. Maybe we should get moving now and get SSBs studied and built by the Army Corps of Engineers before a major hurricane hits.
My thanks to the New York Times of Friday, September 7th, Section A, page 20, for much of this information. The article is entitled: New Orleans Levees Hold, And Outsiders Want In.