Trump Administration Undermines New York and New Jersey Coastal Resilience Effort

Army Corps coastal study should be improved, not halted, EDF and 40 partners tell lawmakers

February 27, 2020
Jacques Hebert

 (Washington, DC – Feb. 27, 2020) Today, EDF was one of over 40 organizations requesting that state and federal lawmakers in New York and New Jersey fund and improve the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) New York New Jersey Harbors and Tributaries Study (NYNJHATS). The Corps has worked on NYNJHATS since Superstorm Sandy devastated the region in an effort to identify solutions for dealing with storm surge. This week, the Trump administration announced that it would halt federal funding for the study.

“Millions of people and billions of dollars in infrastructure in New York and New Jersey are at extreme risk from future storms and sea level rise if we do not act,” said Natalie Snider, Senior Director, Coastal Resilience, EDF. “Sea walls will not protect the region from sea level rise, so these states need a comprehensive study to identify what solutions can best protect residents and property in the face of very real and imminent challenges.”

“We’re deeply concerned with the Trump administration’s decision to halt funding for this critical study,” said Mark Rupp, Director, State-Federal Policy and Affairs, EDF. “Given investments made to date and the urgent need to better protect New York and New Jersey residents against storms and sea level rise, we believe the study can and should be improved. The Trump administration should actively work to identify and fund solutions, such as natural infrastructure, that can build resilience of this and other coastal regions.”

Since its inception, NYNJHATS has focused on hardened infrastructure, such as large gates and walls in the harbor, as a way to reduce risk. In a letter to state and federal lawmakers, EDF and a broad coalition of over 40 organizations called on decision-makers to provide additional direction and resources to improve the study beyond these measures and to account for a future with sea level rise. According to a recent study by Rutgers University, seas could rise by an additional six feet by 2100 in New Jersey. With this level of future threat, the study must expand its focus to incorporate natural and nonstructural solutions to protect the people, economy and livelihoods of the region.

In the letter, the signers acknowledge “the study and outreach surrounding it falls far short,” yet also express concern over the indefinite postponement of the study. Instead, signers provide a detailed list of recommendations for how to improve the study going forward including:

— Asking Congress to expand the scope of NYNJHATS to incorporate and plan for sea level rise, fund and allow the Corps to implement its 2013 Principles & Requirements to prioritize environmental justice and nature, improve outreach and engagement by funding this work through updates to the Water Resources Development Act.

— Asking the States of New Jersey and New York and the City of New York to prioritize and support natural and nature-based and non-structural strategies to build resilience, as well as dedicating resources to outreach in order to improve transparency, equity and public engagement of the study.

Read the letter delivered to state and federal lawmakers with recommendations to improve the NYNJHATS study and access the full list of signers here.

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