New Jersey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rolled out a $16 billion plan meant to shield the Jersey Shore and its back bays from major storms, amid rising sea levels.
The proposal released Aug. 18 calls for installing massive gates along three bays in the state, which could be closed during major storms, as well as barriers in two additional bays that would cut them in half during major weather events.
Under the proposal, outlined in a 561-page report by the Army Corps of Engineers, 18,800 homes and other buildings along flood-prone areas up and down the state’s 141-mile coastline and island bays would be physically elevated.
The plans have gotten no formal approval, nor do they have any source of funding. New Jersey would pay for $5.6 billion of the project, while the federal government would chip in $10.4 billion.
It comes after a five-year study spurred by the devastation Superstorm Sandy in 2012 wrought on the Jersey Shore, in an effort to prevent or at least mitigate future destruction.
“To better protect New Jersey’s residents, communities, and economy, we must plan and prepare today for the climate change risks of tomorrow,” reads a statement from New Jersey Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette.
The “back-bays” encompass nearly 3,400 miles of inland shoreline on the shore counties, still adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, and include bays, rivers and lakes. They’re at considerable risk of flooding from storm surge, high tide and rising water levels, as opposed to places directly on the coast, which fall victim to flooding by a direct hit from waves.
This was especially a problem during Sandy, where rising waters devastated entire communities.
Under the proposal, there would be large storm gates at the Manasquan, Barnegat and Great Egg Harbor Inlets, each of which separates the larger Atlantic Ocean from sprawling bays that turn into rivers that snake deep inland.
There would be two “cross-bay barriers” as well, one by Absecon Bay close to Atlantic City and the other by 52nd Street in Ocean City. They would be built in the center of those bodies of water to physically halt the movement of flood waters.
The plans for elevating the 18,800 homes could prove costly, as it entails going after homes across the entire Jersey Shore region, from Neptune in Monmouth County down to Cape May Point at the southern tip of the state.
Down in Cape May, most physical structures east of the Garden State Parkway would need to be elevated.
New Jersey runs its own similar program called Blue Acres, in which property owners voluntarily sell their land – that may be considered as part of the flood mitigation strategy – to the state. But the program has a mixed track record, and virtually all the homes bought and demolished were along inland and coastal waterways, as opposed to the expensive waterfront homes directly on the beach.