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Union Beach Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project gets underway; ongoing multi-billion dollar recovery from Super Storm Sandy

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Mr. Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

Posted on March 22, 2023

On March 20, 2023, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), New York District, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) announced the start of construction work for the Union Beach Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project.

A formal press event was held at the site with attendees including Senators Menendez and Booker, NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor, Senator Vin Gopal, and Mayor Charles W. Cocuzza.

“Today we closed the final chapter on the planning phases for the Union Beach Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project and moved onto actual shovels in the ground,” said COL Matthew W. Luzzatto, commander, New York District. “This important step could not have been achieved without the support of our partners at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). We’ll continue to work tirelessly to complete this flood risk reduction project, which will provide additional coastal storm risk reduction measures for the residents of these communities.”

New York District is currently in the midst of executing a Superstorm Sandy Coastal Storm Risk Reduction program funded under Public Law 113-2, the Emergency Supplemental Bill passed shortly after Superstorm Sandy. This $6B comprehensive portfolio has seen the District complete 52 of the 60 projects for which funding was appropriated with 6 of the remaining projects currently under construction.

The District has also spent an estimated $3B on new projects to reduce coastal storm risk reduction—completing projects in Sandy Hook to Barnegat Inlet in New Jersey, as well as Long Beach, Downtown Montauk, Coney Island Seagate, and Fire Island to Moriches Inlet, in New York.

The District has also spent another $16 Million on feasibility studies to assess potential projects aimed at protecting vulnerable communities, including the NY/NJ Harbor and Tributaries Study or HATS as it’s commonly known. The Tentatively Selected Plan was released for comment in Fall 2022, and proposes a number of flood risk reduction options designed to provide additional protection to at risk communities throughout the Tri-State area. The public comment period is currently open and scheduled to end on March 31st.

David Gentile, project manager, for the Union Beach Coastal Flood Risk Reduction Project, discussed the project in a bit more detail in QA session:

Please provide additional details about this groundbreaking event? The groundbreaking event is to commemorate the start of construction after we awarded the first construction contract for the Union Beach Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project.

How did USACE get involved? After significant flooding of the Raritan Bay area the House of Representatives authorized the US Army Corps of Engineers to look and study the area to see if there was anything could do to help the communities.  After a feasibility report was done showing a project would have a positive benefit to cost ratio, we proceeded with getting authorization to construct.

What’s the significance of the event? The significance of the event is that the project has entered the construction phase with the start of physical construction.  There are a lot of steps that lead up to this milestone but at this point the community is able to see all the report and design work come to fruition.

Did you face any challenges in executing the project?  Many challenges faced are not only engineering challenges to stop the bay from flooding the community while removing the interior drainage water from the interior creeks and rainwater but to coordinate and permitting all the work with other agencies.  One of the tasks that has often taken the most time for this type of project is the acquisition of the necessary real estate needed for the project.

What led to the engineering solutions?  After many alternatives are evaluated, optimized to an elevation that provides maximum benefits/$, a feasible project is then legislatively authorized for construction.  We execute an agreement with a non-federal sponsor, which in this case is the State of NJ as this project is cost shared 65(Fed)/35(Nonfed). The project team then develops a project management plan which includes tasks, cost estimates and schedule.  The team comprised of various backgrounds, agencies and municipality meet regularly to ensure and make decisions on how to proceed and overcome all the challenges a project is faced with from permitting to finding room for the necessary equipment to construct the project.

Geotechnical borings as well as environmental and cultural surveys are done early on to so that we are able to design a viable solution and to mitigate for the impacts of the project.  For this particular project we look to create a line of defense at an elevation of 14’NAVD88 around the community of Union Beach.  This will be comprised of levees, floodwalls, beach dune and berm, terminal groins, road closure gate, 2 tide gates and 3 pump stations.  Preliminary designs undergo value engineering to ensure that we move forward with the optimal engineering solutions, alignment as well as the latest accredited technologies and methods.  Our plans also undergo multiple agency reviews as well as an external peer review prior to awarding a contract to a construction contractor.

Is there anything you’d like to add?  It really takes the support of the community, sponsors, and stakeholders for projects of this size to move forward and once complete it will really benefit the community, but the entire alignment does need to be completed before those benefits can be realized.


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