Storm invigorates proponents of NYC sea barrier

BIV

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Apr 22, 2002
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Storm invigorates proponents of NYC sea barrier

By JENNIFER PELTZ and PETER SVENSSON | Associated Press – 3 hrs ago

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    Associated Press/Mark Lennihan - Water gushes from a hose as it is pumped out of a basement in New York's financial district, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. Much of lower Manhattan and the financial district are …more

NEW YORK (AP) — The vast destruction wreaked by the storm surge in New York could have been prevented with a sea barrier of the type that protects major cities in Europe, some scientists and engineers say. The multibillion-dollar price tag of such a project has been a hindrance, but may appear more palatable after the damage from Superstorm Sandy has been tallied.
"The time has come. The city is finally going to have to face this," said oceanography professor Malcolm J. Bowman at Long Island's Stony Brook University. He has warned for years of the potential for a catastrophic storm surge in New York and has advocated for a barrier.
Invented by Bowman and his colleague Douglas Hill, two European engineering firms have drawn up proposals for walling most of New York off from the sea, at a price just above $6 billion.
Before the storm, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration had said it was working to analyze natural risks and the effectiveness of various coast-protection techniques, including storm-surge barriers. But officials had noted that barriers were only one of many ideas, and they have often emphasized more modest, immediate steps the city has taken, such as installing floodgates at sewage plants and raising the ground level while redeveloping a low-lying area in Queens.
"It's a series of small interventions that cumulatively, over time, will take us to a more natural system" to deal with climate change and rising sea levels, Carter H. Strickland, the city's environmental commissioner, told The New York Times this summer.
Engineers know this approach as "resilience" — essentially, toughening the city piece by piece to make it soak up a surge without major damage. But the European engineering firms whose barriers protect the Netherlands and the Russian metropolis of St. Petersburg see this as unrealistic, given the vast amount of expensive infrastructure that underpins New York.
"How does New York as a city retreat into resilient mode? It's just difficult to see how that would happen," said Graeme Forsyth, an engineer for CH2M Hill in Glasgow, Scotland.
Sandy sent a record 14-foot storm surge into New York Harbor, flooding subway tunnels and airports. It forced the closure of the stock market for two days, the first time that's happened for weather-related reasons since 1888. There's no estimate yet for the cost of the devastation in New York City, but forecasting firm IHS Global Insight put the cost of the damage along the coast at $20 billion, plus $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business.
Forsyth has worked on St. Petersburg's barrier, which consists of 16 miles of levees and gates shielding the city, built on what was once a swamp, from the Baltic Sea and the river Neva. The centerpiece of his firm's early-stage proposal for New York is a levee-like barrier that would stretch five miles from the Rockaway peninsula in Queens on Long Island to the Sandy Hook promontory in New Jersey. The barrier would stop a surge of 30 feet, twice the height from Sandy. Gaps would allow ships, river water and tides through, but movable gates could close off all of New York Bay from the Atlantic when necessary. The barrier would protect most of the city, with the exception of Rockaway itself. It would also shield parts of New Jersey.
To be sure, some scientists have reservations about the storm-surge barrier concept.
Some are concerned about how the structures could affect tidal flow and other environmental features of New York Harbor — and about whether barriers would be socially fair.
"Who gets included to be behind the gate, and who doesn't get included? ... How do you make that decision in a fair way?" Robert Swanson, an oceanographer who is Bowman's colleague at Stony Brook, said in an August interview.
Other experts question whether barriers would even work in the long term. Klaus H. Jacob, a Columbia University climate-risk researcher who has advised New York City officials, has noted that given the unknowns of climate change, any system designed now could prove inadequate in the future.
But advocates believe New York needs to take bigger steps given its concentration of people and financial infrastructure.
"With the kind of protection that has been considered so far, you cannot protect a multimillion-inhabitant city that runs part of the world economy," said Piet Dircke, who has worked on the extensive system of sea barriers in the Netherlands with the Dutch engineering firm Arcadis.
His firm's proposal is to build a barrier in the Verrazano Narrows between Brooklyn and Staten Island, shielding Upper New York Bay. It would be supplemented by two smaller barriers, one between Staten Island and New Jersey and the other on the East River. Such a barrier would have protected Manhattan and much of Brooklyn and Staten Island from Sandy, but left southern Brooklyn and Kennedy Airport exposed.
Robert Trentlyon, a New York community activist who has been advocating for storm-surge barriers, sees the one-two punch of Hurricane Irene in 2011 — which came within a foot of flooding subway stations in southern Manhattan — and Sandy as a sign that the time has come.
"Having had two storm surges within one year, and their both being major ones, I just find it very difficult to think the city could not go ahead and act," the retired local newspaper publisher said by phone Sunday from his Manhattan apartment, which was left without power. His Chelsea neighborhood, though not his building, was among those that flooded.
In August, U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler urged city officials to take a comprehensive look at storm-surge barriers, bulkheads and other flood-fighting devices.
After the storm, reactions from the government have been mixed, as the region battles to recover from the storm rather than looking at how to prevent the next disaster.
"We cannot build a big barrier reef off the shore to stop the waves from coming in," Bloomberg said Monday. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened the door to new ideas Tuesday, saying that the government has a responsibility to think about new designs and techniques to protect the city in the face of what look like increasingly frequent megastorms.
One doesn't have to go to Europe or New Orleans to find examples of massive sea barriers: The city of Providence, R.I., has been protected by a 3,000-foot gated barrier since 1966. Construction was prompted by two devastating hurricanes in 1938 and 1954. The barrier has prevented flooding of the low-lying parts of the city several times since then, including during Sandy.
"This is not far-out science or engineering," Bowman said. "This is easy to do."
"Easy" doesn't mean it would be something that could be put in place quickly. Even after politicians line up behind the project, funding, permitting and environmental studies are likely to take years.
"It could take 20 years before people even start pouring concrete," Bowman said.
 

Norm Stansfield

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Mar 17, 2009
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#2
When the Netherlands built its barrier system, there was an objective study calculating the cost of flooding and weighing them against the cost of the project. The project proved to be cost effective because of two factors:
1. large population centers were located bellow sea level
2. storms in the North Sea can't be predicted early enough to allow time for full evacuation, so the cost in human life would be high.

Maybe "community activists" and politicians should get to work on that first, then run their mouths.
 
Dec 8, 2004
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#3
When the Netherlands built its barrier system, there was an objective study calculating the cost of flooding and weighing them against the cost of the project. The project proved to be cost effective because of two factors:
1. large population centers were located bellow sea level
2. storms in the North Sea can't be predicted early enough to allow time for full evacuation, so the cost in human life would be high.

Maybe "community activists" and politicians should get to work on that first, then run their mouths.
Good luck with that... more then likely it will turn in to New York's version of the Big Dig... with the cost overruns... and other shenanigans.
 
Dec 8, 2004
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#4
Just noticed this tid-bit on the wiki article about the big dig...

Lighting fixtures

In March 2011, it came to light that senior MassDOT officials had failed to disclose an issue with the lighting fixtures in the O'Neill tunnel. In early February 2011, a maintenance crew found a fixture lying in the middle travel lane in the northbound tunnel.[49] Assuming it to be simple road debris, the maintenance team picked it up and brought it back to its home facility. The next day, a supervisor passing through the yard realized that the 120 lb (54 kg) fixture was not road debris but was in fact one of the fixtures used to light the tunnel itself. Further investigation revealed that the fixture's mounting apparatus had failed, due to galvanic corrosion of incompatible metals, caused by having aluminum in direct contact with stainless steel, in the presence of salt water.[36][50] The electrochemical potential difference between stainless steel and aluminum is in the range of 0.5 to 1.0V, depending on the exact alloys involved, and can cause considerable corrosion within months under unfavorable conditions.

After the discovery of the reason why the fixture had failed, a comprehensive inspection of the other fixtures in the tunnel revealed that numerous other fixtures were also in the same state of deterioration.[51] Some of the worst fixtures were temporarily shored up with plastic ties.[35] Moving forward with temporary repairs, members of the MassDOT administration team decided not to let the news of the systemic failure and repair of the fixtures be released to the public or to Governor Deval Patrick's administration.[52] The public uproar that occurred once the story got out eventually contributed to the resignation of the head of MassDOT.[citation needed]

As of April 2012, it appears that all of the 25,000 light fixtures will have to replaced, at an estimated cost of $54 million.[35] The replacement work will be done at night, and will require lane closures or closing of the entire tunnel for safety, and may take up to 2 years to complete.
Nice.
 

Creasy Bear

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Further investigation revealed that the fixture's mounting apparatus had failed, due to galvanic corrosion of incompatible metals, caused by having aluminum in direct contact with stainless steel, in the presence of salt water.[36][50]
Holy crap... that is an Engineering 101 rookie error. Dissimilar metals in direct contact, especially in mounting hardware, is a Bozo No No, and a formula for disaster. They pounded that lesson into our heads on like day 1 of our engineering schools in the Navy..

Somebody's head better have rolled for that fuck up... probably didn't though.



 

OccupyWackbag

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What we need is for the government to create an organization to handle this matter in a proper and cost effective way.
 

BIV

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Apr 22, 2002
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Holy crap... that is an Engineering 101 rookie error. Dissimilar metals in direct contact, especially in mounting hardware, is a Bozo No No, and a formula for disaster. They pounded that lesson into our heads on like day 1 of our engineering schools in the Navy..

Somebody's head better have rolled for that fuck up... probably didn't though.
Hell, I think we learned the basics of that in high school chemistry. Fucking ponderous.
 

BIV

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#8
What we need is for the government to create an organization to handle this matter in a proper and cost effective way.
We can call it the Federal Expectations committee for Machining and Allowances.
 
Dec 8, 2004
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#9
Holy crap... that is an Engineering 101 rookie error. Dissimilar metals in direct contact, especially in mounting hardware, is a Bozo No No, and a formula for disaster. They pounded that lesson into our heads on like day 1 of our engineering schools in the Navy..

Somebody's head better have rolled for that fuck up... probably didn't though.
Well that and not like Bawferston is near any salt water or anything...
 
Dec 8, 2004
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#12
Or has winters where they put salt on the roads or anything...
And a shit tonne of that as well... they do have "salt free zones" near water though... which I thought was odd as the rivers there (for the most part) are tidal and brackish.
 

Creasy Bear

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#14
If memory serves me... you can just install a grounding strap between the fixture and the mounting bracket to eliminate, or at least mitigate, the effects of the galvanic corrosion. Eliminate the difference in potential and there is no current flow.

But... that's probably the 1 million dollar answer versus the 54 million dollar solution the contractors preferred.
 
Dec 8, 2004
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#15
If memory serves me... you can just install a grounding strap between the fixture and the mounting bracket to eliminate, or at least mitigate, the effects of the galvanic corrosion. Eliminate the difference in potential and there is no current flow.

But... that's probably the 1 million dollar answer versus the 54 million dollar solution the contractors preferred.
Well that and there is a goo you can put put on dissimilar metals... plus the fixtures have been rotting for 6 or 8 years. At least no more the ceiling has fallen down because of someone using the wrong glue on the bolts.
 

MayrMeninoCrash

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#16


The Army Corps recently built Louisiana a nice new seawall to protect from storm surge. I was fortunate enough to go out there and check it out while it was under construction.

Holy crap... that is an Engineering 101 rookie error. Dissimilar metals in direct contact, especially in mounting hardware, is a Bozo No No, and a formula for disaster. They pounded that lesson into our heads on like day 1 of our engineering schools in the Navy..

Somebody's head better have rolled for that fuck up... probably didn't though.
Speaking as someone who is "in the know", my guess would be these lights were not designed for this particular application and someone was cutting corners by not buying the "OK to be near saltwater" version of the lights that have a 20% markup because they include nylon washers to isolate the different metals. Most likely the designer didn't specify exactly which model light to use and the contractor ordered the cheapest models to satisfy his requirements.
 

MayrMeninoCrash

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#17
If memory serves me... you can just install a grounding strap between the fixture and the mounting bracket to eliminate, or at least mitigate, the effects of the galvanic corrosion. Eliminate the difference in potential and there is no current flow.

But... that's probably the 1 million dollar answer versus the 54 million dollar solution the contractors preferred.
Generally you would use some sort of cathodic protection, which is a sacrificial bar of metal (zinc usually) that "absorbs" the corrosion and protects the metal. Installing those would be way more work than swapping out the bolts and washers though.
 
Dec 8, 2004
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#18
Speaking as someone who is "in the know", my guess would be these lights were not designed for this particular application and someone was cutting corners by not buying the "OK to be near saltwater" version of the lights that have a 20% markup because they include nylon washers to isolate the different metals. Most likely the designer didn't specify exactly which model light to use and the contractor ordered the cheapest models to satisfy his requirements.
Well more then likely the company that made the lights was owned by a relative of the contractor installing them.... oh the light fixtures in question.



Kinda look like a bigger version of the vapor proof ones I put in the barn....
 

Creasy Bear

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Generally you would use some sort of cathodic protection, which is a sacrificial bar of metal (zinc usually) that "absorbs" the corrosion and protects the metal. Installing those would be way more work than swapping out the bolts and washers though.
Seems like ground straps would be a fuckload cheaper. That's how we did it on the ship when I was in the Navy. Dissimilar metals and galvanic corrosion couldn't be avoided in many instances. Navy ships are a nightmare of galvanic corrosion... steel hull, aluminum superstructure, brass fixtures, salt water and salty grime on everything, and all of the millions of metal thingymabobs and doohickeys that have to be attached and bolted to said steel hull and aluminum superstructure. We used cathodic protection to protect the ships hull from corrosion, but it wasn't feasible for all of the other crap on the ship. Simple ground straps for everything else... worked fine.
 
Dec 8, 2004
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#20
Mike Rowe went with the Corps of Engineers to replace sacrificial anodes on a flood gate or something... oh and if they are changing them at night I can just imagine the wacky detours. I drove in late through Bawferston a few years ago and the tunnels were closed the detour included going through an alley.
 

BIV

I'm Biv Dick Black, the Over Poster.
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#22
What a C barrier might look like: