We've been warned that Sandy won't be the last "freak" storm to rock New York, and officials have begun to mull over a few ways to protect us from more Day After Tomorrow-esque destruction. Today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn threw her two cents into the climate change conversation, presenting flood prevention proposals that included a study analyzing building storm surge barriers, and she expects the Feds to cover the fairly high costs.
"The future of our planet, the world our grandchildren inherit, depends on what we do in the months and years ahead," Quinn said. "At this moment the need for action cannot be ignored—the cost of this enterprise cannot be dismissed as too great." Sea barriers have been suggested as a possible storm surge solution before. The Army Corps of Engineers built a two-mile-long barrier system outside Stamford, Connecticut in 1969. It protected much of the city from Sandy's full force, sparing an estimated $25 million in damage and researchers have suggested they could do the same for New York.
Storm barriers have raised alarm among some environmentalists, who say disrupting tidal flows would mess with the waters' natural ecosystems. "We understand everything needs to be on the table dealing with the new normal, but storm surge barriers may end up doing more harm than good," Paul Gallay, president of the Riverkeeper environmental group, told the Times. Some experts also have suggested that barriers raise water levels in areas beyond their reach, which could cause more flooding. There's also the issue of aesthetics— a rusty mechanical wall sitting in the New York Harbor would be pretty unsightly (though this isn't much fun to look at, either).
But most of all, the barriers come with a hefty price tag. They could run the city anywhere from $10 to $17 billion to build and operate, and Quinn's other proposals, which include investing more in the city's underground infrastructure, burying utility power lines and changing the region's gasoline distribution network, could top over $20 billion. Quinn says it's the government's responsibility to shoulder most of the cost, which sounds all well and good, but, let's face it, didn't work out so well the time Ronald Reagan tried to build that "Star Wars" force field over the United States.
Quinn's obviously been tapped as a 2013 mayoral hopeful, and it's unclear whether she expects to put this burden on the city's economy or is just using a post-Sandy platform to jumpstart her campaign (the new Mayor of 9/11, anyone?). Either way, our vote is still for oysters.