Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that federal funding has been approved for an innovative resiliency project on a 150 acre span along Spring Creek and Jamaica Bay in Queens to better protect homes and businesses from destructive storm surges. The project will use an initial $3 million for engineering and design work, and once approved, an estimated $47 million toward resiliency efforts. Approximately 3,000 homes in the Howard Beach neighborhood suffered serious damage as a result of Superstorm Sandy.
"Like several other communities located by water, Howard Beach suffered incredible damage from storm surges during Superstorm Sandy," Governor Cuomo said. "To strengthen Howard Beach against future flooding and storms, we are moving forward on a major project that improves the natural infrastructure along Spring Creek and the Jamaica Bay coast in Queens, with the approval of federal funding. As the State continues to work with local communities to identify and implement strategies to make at-risk areas more resilient to extreme weather, this project is another example of how we're building back better to better protect New Yorkers' homes and businesses."
At the request of Governor Cuomo, the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) developed a plan to implement a natural infrastructure resilience project along Spring Creek and Jamaica Bay to limit storm surge inundation in Howard Beach. The project will involve excavation, re-contouring, and re-vegetation to establish a self-sustaining system of wave-dampening barriers to reduce storm damage.
Key features of the innovative project include low- and high-level vegetated salt marshes, dune complexes, grasslands and maritime forests at increasing elevations, which will protect against storm surges like those experienced during Hurricane Sandy and provide an additional level of resiliency against sea level rise. The project also holds open the prospect for surge dampening shell fish reefs and will interact with on-going efforts to rebuild marsh islands to ultimately establish multiple barriers of protection for Howard Beach and other Jamaica Bay communities.
The Spring Creek storm damage mitigation site is located along the eastern shore of Spring Creek on the north shore of Jamaica Bay in Queens. The site is bound by the Belt Parkway to the north, and a series of roadways (78th St., 161st Ave., 83rd St., 165th Ave and Cross Bay Boulevard) to the southeast. The site comprises the western and southern perimeter of the community of Howard Beach, which has a population of 7,400 and contains nearly 3,000 homes, 2 schools and dozens of small businesses. The site is managed by the National Park Service as part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
The Howard Beach community has experienced flood damage on multiple occasions, most recently during Superstorm Sandy, where the tidal surge reached as much as 6' above ground level and 1,958 homes and 38 businesses were damaged, as were two schools. According to FEMA, 700 of the affected homes received disaster relief loans totaling $43 million The community also experienced damage during Hurricane Irene in 2011. The community's low elevation make it vulnerable to flooding in even moderate storm events. The area is also vulnerable to wave attack from the southwest as it is exposed to a fetch of nearly 3 miles. A rendering is attached.
Storm protection would be achieved by drastically recountouring the grade within the mitigation site, creating a uniform elevation that will limit entry of flood waters and waves into the community. Approximately 765,000 cubic yards of material will be excavated across the site to reshaped to create the higher inland contours. As this is historic fill, approximately 40,000 cubic yards of sand will be imported and spread across the site to create a 6" cover for planting purposes. In the process, the project will restore over 150 acres of valuable maritime habitats including 86.6 acres of upland buffer (dunes and maritime forest), 49 acres of low marsh, 10 acres of high marsh and 6 acres of tidal creek. Collectively, the wetland and upland systems will reduce the impacts of future coastal storms by reducing wave energy and providing a barrier to flood waters.
"Governor Cuomo has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to providing the resources communities need to enhance storm protection and flood mitigation," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. "This is another example of New York making a smart investment in storm defenses that are consistent with enhancing the natural environment, and we look forward to working with other state and local partners to help strengthen local infrastructure and minimize storm and flooding risks."