A Project of NY State Governor's Office of Storm Recovery
What’s New with the Living Breakwaters Project
Living Breakwaters is a $70 million project funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and a winner of HUD's Post-Sandy Rebuild by Design Challenge. It was designed as a storm mitigation project in the aftermath of the devastation wrought along the Tottenville shoreline by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The project is, however, intended to be much more than a defense against the inevitable superstorms to come in the age of climate change. Its aims are threefold and mutually reinforcing: to adapt the vulnerable south shore of Staten Island to withstand the worst ravages of likely future superstorms, to restore and enhance shoreline biodiversity, and to foster stewardship by reconnecting a community with its rich marine heritage.
The design phase of The Living Breakwaters project is now 60 percent completed. The related Tottenville Shoreline Protection Project (TSPP)—a separately funded project to construct a series of shoreline protection structures as part of the New York Rising Community Reconstruction initiative, now planned in coordination with Living Breakwaters— is entering its 60 percent design phase. Both projects are expected to be fully designed by the end of 2018.
All relevant federal, state, and local agencies have provided detailed feedback and comments on the draft Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Minor revisions reflecting that feedback have been made, and the final document is expected to be published by the end of March 2018. The Joint Permit application will be filed with US Army Corp of Engineers and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in April and is expected to be approved by the fall of 2018, at which point construction of the breakwaters can begin.
The living breakwaters are intended to serve two shoreline risk mitigation purposes: not only to reduce the height of waves that hit the shore during major storm events but also to reduce and, hopefully, reverse the erosion that has been destroying the south shore beaches for many years.
If all goes as planned, construction will begin in late May 2019, pausing in December 2019 and resuming in late May 2020. “The reason for the seasonal breaks in the construction schedule,” notes Pippa Brashear, Director of Planning and Resilience for SCAPE, the lead design firm for Living Breakwaters, “will be to avoid construction during certain fish-mating seasons.” Living Breakwaters will be completed at the end of 2020 and the TSPP project will begin in May 2019 and is expected to be completed at the same time.
The Water Hub, which was initially planned to be permanently housed at the eastern edge of Conference House Park, will now be a floating hub operated by the Billion Oyster Project. Educational and community events will be hosted on board the vessel. It will also transport classes and volunteers to the breakwaters for educational and monitoring purposes and host marine-based workforce development programs for students. “Where it will dock has not yet been determined,” reports Lisa Kaplan, Senior Project Manager for the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, “it might leave from various points at different times. Markers and features will be constructed along the shoreline connecting visitors of Conference House Park with the Breakwaters.”
Thus far $60 million, of the expected $70 million required for the project, has been allocated to Living Breakwaters from the HUD-funded Rebuild by Design Award. “We recognize we have to do additional fundraising to round out the project,” says Kaplan, “but we have a real commitment from New York State, and are very hopeful that the monies will be secured.”