$16B Plan to Ease Back Bay Flooding at NJ Shore Raises Concerns

BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J. (AP) — A proposed $16 billion plan to address back bay flooding, one of the major sources of storm damage at the Jersey Shore, is raising concerns about where water would go during storms, whether barriers proposed as part of it would hinder navigation and the impact it would have on the environment.

During an online hearing on Sept. 20 for the project, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it could prevent $1.8 billion worth of storm damage a year when fully constructed.

“It doesn’t eliminate all damage, but it will greatly reduce damages,” said Robert Hampson, a hydraulic engineer with the Army Corps.

But officials did not yet have detailed answers on some concerns, particularly environmental ones, noting that the project, which is one of the most ambitious and expensive flood control efforts any U.S. state has yet taken to address back bay flooding, is still in the planning stages.

The proposal calls for construction of huge gates across the mouths of three inlets in New Jersey that could be slammed shut when major storms approach, closable barriers that would cut parts of two bays in half and the elevation of nearly 19,000 homes.

Back bay flooding refers to floods that are not primarily caused by waves crashing over ocean barriers, but by stealthily rising water levels in bays along inland shorelines.

Although ocean waves caused severe damage during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, back bay flooding also caused extensive damage in that storm. In numerous places, it was the primary source of property damage during Sandy.

It also would change the way several iconic spots at the Jersey Shore would look and operate.

When someone asked where all the water diverted by the gates and barriers would go during storms, Hampson said the barriers may cause a temporary increase in water levels near the structures of 6 inches to 1 foot when they are closed.

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