Morang, A., 2016. Hurricane barriers in New England and New Jersey: History and status after five decades.
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey suffered damage, flooding, and deaths from three major hurricanes in less than two decades during the mid-twentieth century. One of these, the Great New England Hurricane of 21 September 1938, caused unprecedented damage and flooded Providence, New London, and other urban areas. Following Hurricane Carol in 1954, the 84th Congress (1st Session, Public Law 71, 15 June 1955) authorized and directed the Secretary of the Army to conduct surveys and studies of damages, causes, and remediation measures with regard to hurricanes. After extensive studies during the late 1950s, Congress authorized and funded seven hurricane protection projects: (1) in Fox Point, Providence, Rhode Island, a barrier, navigation gates, and pumps; (2) in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a barrier, navigation gates, and pumps; (3) in New London, Connecticut, a barrier and navigation gate; (4) in Pawcatuck, Connecticut, earthfill and concrete walls; (5) in Stamford, Connecticut, a barrier and pump station; (6) in Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays, New Jersey, levees, beach fill, and pumps; and (7) in Charles River, Boston, Massachusetts, a dam with locks and pumps. Most of the projects have not been tested with storm-water elevations near their design elevation. Exceptions are the Charles River dam, which helped prevent flooding during the Blizzard of 1978, and Raritan Bay, during Hurricane Sandy. For lower levels, all projects have performed as designed. After the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, comprehensive hurricane barriers have been proposed for the New York area. Many major challenges would confront planners and designers of new hurricane barriers in the New York Bight area compared to the earlier projects: (1) Far more extensive environmental impact studies would have to be conducted now; (2) obtaining permits and negotiating property rights would be a challenging multiyear process; and (3) obtaining easements and construction access would be vastly more difficult now because of the substantially higher value of coastal real estate.