Tip Sheets

Letting the water in could be key to controlling flooding risks in New York

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has unveiled its latest vision of how to protect New York City and the region from future storms: a $52 billion proposal to build 12 movable sea barriers across the mouths of major bays and inlets along New York Harbor.

Todd Walter

Professor of biological and environmental engineering

Todd Walter is a professor of biological and environmental engineering specializing in hydrology and water resources engineering. He believes it may be more effective to adopt a “flood risk mitigation” strategy instead of a “flood control” strategy.

Walter says: 

"Human civilization has been fighting against the ocean for a long time. We have put our houses on stilts or man-made hills to avoid floods. The Netherlands, via its infamous levees, is probably the poster child of our modern attempts to keep the ocean from swallowing us. England may have one of the most expensive flood control systems on its Thames River.

“But sometimes it’s more effective to remove the risks, including homes and infrastructure, than to control the flood. I think the U.S., including New York, may need to adopt this strategy. The ocean is a pretty substantial force and I’m skeptical that we can tame it."

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