“If we had the money today, it would still take 18 months to construct the wall,” said Fredric Pocci, engineer at North Hudson Sewage Authority (NHSA), talking at a town meeting on Monday about the township’s plan to build flood walls to protect the low-lying neighborhood known as The Shades.
“Here is what takes time,” said Mayor Richard Turner. “Funding and the studies, the environmental impact studies take time, and you need all that before you get permits and all.”
The Shades neighborhood was heavily damaged during Superstorm Sandy last October when nearly seven feet of water settled in the streets, destroying cars, flooding basements and first floor apartments, and seriously damaging St. Lawrence Church, the township’s main Catholic parish.
The town’s proposal is to build a defensive wall around The Shades in two phases – a permanent, concrete-reinforced wall along the adjacent Hudson-Bergen Light Rail tracks, and a “deployable” stainless steel wall that would lay flat on Boulevard East and only activate in the event of a flood surge.
The deployable wall would rise on its own until it is at a 90 degree angle at a height between seven and 10 feet.
The plan application was submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA), which officials hope will fund the project through their Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The program provides funds to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration. The $12 million plan would use funds that are part of nearly $600 million allocated for infrastructural improvements in Sandy’s wake.
Weehawken and Hoboken are the only cities in the region to propose plans for flood walls, which could ultimately increase their chances of receiving the funds.
“This is by far not a final design,” said Turner when talking about the plan’s $12 million pricetag. With future technologies being developed to protect the region from future Sandy-like storms, which have increased in recent years, the price of the plan could very well go down, said Turner.
The plan submitted and designed in conjunction with NHSA, can take at least six months to be accepted and to their knowledge FEMA has not even looked at it yet, said Turner. Besides explaining the specifications of the wall, Mayor Turner, Pocci, and Consultant Engineer Kevin Wynn from engineering firm Hatch Mott Macdonald, addressed the questions and concerns of the attendees.
Residents mentioned the potential gap between the connecting walls and if water could still make it through. Wynn explained that the deployable wall would work with the permanent wall to let no water breach the wall in the case of a flood surge.
Other concerns were the dispersal of flood water and the safety of the deployable wall during traffic and bad weather. Wynn eased concerns by explaining, “Components are specified with stainless steel so that rust or corrosion is not a factor even in harsh environments such as road salt or salt water.”
The walls in the street would also make little to no noise when traffic drives over them. “This is an evolving thing,” said Turner. “The studies on the dispersement effect, which we think are less than negligible, studies to make sure there’s no noise will all be looked at.”
The residents seemed satisfied with the plan and the answers received to their questions. Many more meetings are set to take place to give residents other opportunities to voice their questions and comments.
Christian Diaz may be reached at ChristianD@hudsonreporter.com.