Skip to main content

A proposed 6-mile barrier that could help protect New York City from major storms like Hurricane Sandy in 2012—which the city is still recovering from—is at the center of debate.

The $119 billion barrier is the largest of five options the Army Corps of Engineers is considering to protect the city, as storms are predicted to become more frequent and destructive as the ocean warms, according to a report in The New York Times.

Supporters say a barrier miles from Manhattan in outer New York Harbor is the best protection from storm surge from the East and Hudson rivers, but critics say a wall doesn’t do enough to address climate change and could actually compound environmental challenges.

The engineers’ barrier designs would address storm surge but would not offset flooding from high tides and storm runoff, according to the Times, and could trap sewage and toxins that would threaten the ecological revival of New York’s waterways.

Others worry that the wall a that would take 25 years to build could be obsolete within decades if the Corps of Engineers’ sea level estimates are low. It’s not clear if the city, New York, New Jersey and Congress would jointly fund the project.

“These sea gates will not be able to protect communities from flooding caused by rising tides and rising sea levels, and once they’re built, that’s it,” said Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, according to the Times. “We’re not going to get the money again.”

The Corps of Engineers says its designs can be modified and that it has not yet decided on one of the five plans. The four other proposals are smaller in scale, and three involved smaller barriers.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed or damaged 65,000 boats at a value of $650 million, according to BoatUS. Sandy prompted climate experts and insurance providers to issue a warning to be prepared for more large and unpredictable storms as weather patterns change.