New York Begins Construction on $107 Million “Living Barriers” to Combat Rising Seas

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Robison Wells
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On the southern tip of Staten Island, a new project aims to fight rising sea levels and install anti-flooding structures. In September of this year, the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery began work on what they’re calling “Living Barriers,” breakwaters made up of eight massive rock piles.

The reasons for construction include deflecting waves, reducing erosion, blunting storm surges, and protecting against rising sea levels. Designers also hope to designate the “Living Barrier” as a habitat for marine species.

The first two breakwaters use 1,100 stone-filled wire cages called mattresses. Each 22-foot-long mattress weighs seven tons. An equilibrium crane hoists them off a barge and into the water; divers guild them into place.

“They get installed in kind of a jigsaw puzzle, Tetris formation, where they are all side-by-side, up against each other,” said Kevin Robinson, project manager for Weeks Marine. “That provides scour protection and a structural foundation for the stone, so it doesn’t settle into the bay and collapse over time.”

Designers use concrete features that mimic tide pools and marine habitats to create the breakwaters. The devices function like reef edges. A group called the Billion Oyster Project also plans to install an oyster colony.

Construction crews will spread 21,000 tons of sand on the Staten Island shoreline in the final construction stage.

New York plans to protect the shores with this and many other projects. A few miles up Staten Island, The Army Corps of Engineers plans to build a 5.3-mile seawall, a $615 million project. In addition, Manhattan intends to begin work on a $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. The projects happen on the skirts of a $7.7 billion investment to repair infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Still, on Staten Island, plans exist to make on and off shore changes. “They are probably already going to have to elevate homes and adapt over time and understand that periodic flooding is going to happen,” said Pippa Brashear, project manager of the Living Barriers. “Living with water is going to be a part of that adaptation.”

New York hopes to improve its coastal areas with several construction projects. These projects promise infrastructure updates and measures against future on and off coast concerns.

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