When emergency preparedness authorities recommend that you prepare a disaster kit with flashlights and water and evacuation routes, they mean that you should do so now, not spend a few months or years pondering how best to assemble the kit before going to the hardware store.
It’s puzzling then that when talking about the proverbial disaster kit for the flood-prone New York Harbor region, a new plan released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is projected to begin, at the earliest, in 2030 and be completed by 2044. Fellow federal scientists at NASA have already projected that, by the mid-2030s, “every U.S. coast will experience rapidly increasing high-tide floods” due in part to a generally higher sea level that will no doubt exacerbate the severity of the storm surges that the USACE plan is designed to mitigate.
It’s nearly 10 years since Superstorm Sandy put much of New York City underwater. Mitigation efforts are desperately needed now. It doesn’t help that the final study, which lays out findings and recommendations for measures including storm surge gates, flood walls, and elevated roads, took six years to produce, no thanks to a delay in funding courtesy of one particular (former) New Yorker, Donald Trump.
We understand that this is an incredibly complicated and multifaceted proposal looking at specific methods to be deployed in areas from eastern New Jersey through southern Manhattan and Brooklyn, and which must work in tandem to provide the maximum protection. Still, this is a moment of imminent emergency, and this project cannot get bogged down in the interlocking complexities of local, state and federal politics.
Yes, there must be public input and a chance for communities across the impacted area to make their voices heard, and indeed there is a public comment period running into next January. Officials in New York and New Jersey should understand that each community will be vying for its own particular interests, comfort and views, and take decisive action as necessary to make this project move forward as soon as possible. The storms won’t wait.