By Lin MillerOctober 30, 2018
At the same time the North Atlantic Division (NAD) has supported U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) response and recovery efforts following recent major storm events elsewhere in the United States, it has remained intensely focused on Superstorm Sandy repair, restoration and risk-reduction projects in the northeast six years since that major weather event.
The NAD collaborates with its federal, state, local and industry partners on and manages 155 Sandy projects along the Atlantic coast from New England to Virginia resulting from that hurricane's landfall near Brigantine, New Jersey on October 29, 2012. According to data compiled by the National Hurricane Center through January 2018, Superstorm Sandy is the fourth most costly tropical storm for the damage it caused to the United States, exceeded only by the damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey and Maria.
"Our commitment to reducing storm damage risks to northeastern coastal communities remains strong and unwavering," Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Milhorn, NAD commander said. "Our philosophy is 'make it count and make it matter' for our stakeholders, the public at large. We will continue to do that as we complete our long-term project recovery with our partners and complete financial and project close-outs on our short-term efforts."
"I applaud the successful collaboration with our partners that synchronize all Hurricane Sandy recovery and resiliency efforts, and I am proud of the remarkable and steadfast progress our division and district teams have made toward accomplishing this crucial mission," Milhorn said.
Public Law 113-2 (PL 113-2) -- also known as the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 -- authorized and funded USACE with more than $5 billion to analyze, restore and construct federal projects spanning the entire 31,000-mile Atlantic coast, including back bays impacted by Sandy's storm surge and flooding, with $4.6 billion specifically appropriated for NAD projects. Projects are grouped and managed in four program areas: Operations and Maintenance (O&M); Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE); 'Authorized but Unconstructed' (ABU); and Ongoing Studies.
In the past year, the division completed its final three Sandy O&M projects. The entire O&M program required repairs to 86 USACE-built-and-maintained structures including breakwaters, storm surge barriers, jetties, bulkheads and revetments, as well as clearing shoaling from navigation channels that hindered waterway access. Completion of the final three O&M projects brings to 120 the total number of Sandy recovery-related projects NAD has completed since Congress passed PL 113-2.
The FCCE program is NAD's second largest in the number of projects. The division's districts completed the restoration of 25 existing coastal storm risk management projects by early 2015.
Significant progress continues to be made in the ABU program, the most labor intensive category in the region's recovery portfolio that represents $3.3 billion of Sandy project appropriations for NAD. Congress authorized these projects prior to Sandy, but had not appropriated construction funds prior to the storm's landfall.
After first reconfirming economic, environmental and technical viability, work began on constructing 19 ABU coastal storm risk management projects. Funds appropriated by PL 113-2 in 2013 have enabled NAD to complete eight of 19 ABU projects, two of which were completed in the last 12 months. Seven projects are now in various phases of construction, and three more are in the pre-construction design phase.
Most ABU projects involve constructing engineered dune and berm systems to reduce coastal storm risk to infrastructure located behind beaches, while others require the repair or construction of structures such as seawalls, tide gates, floodwalls, levees, and pump stations.
The recovery portfolio also includes completion of 17 ongoing coastal storm damage risk reduction studies which were already underway at the time of Hurricane Sandy. Of the 17 studies, two have advanced to the construction design and implementation phase, two will be completed this year, and three are expected to be complete within the next 18 months. The remaining studies are in various phases of final disposition and close-out.
Joe Forcina, the division's Civil Works Integration Division Chief, has led the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Program for several years, most recently directing NAD's regional civil works program of which Sandy efforts are one part.
"The Corps was tasked by Congress with the mission of reducing risks to our coastal communities from storm events and, together with our non-federal partners, we have accomplished an extensive amount of work to that end," Forcina said. "We've reached 80 percent program completion, including our two largest programs, project number-wise: O&M with 86 projects, and FCCE with 25. We've executed three additional construction project partnership agreements with non-federal sponsors, awarding contracts and starting construction on nearly a dozen project phases. Within the next two fiscal years, our Investigations Program will wrap up, aligning four additional studies for potential implementation, further reducing coastal storm damage risks to shoreline communities."
According to Forcina, the Division will continue to remain focused on moving collective recovery efforts forward.
"It continues to be our charge to finish storm damage mitigation projects as quickly as possible," he said. "Area residents and businesses are depending on us to do the best job we can, so we will continue to build on the progress we've made, maintaining a constant sense of urgency until we have completed our mission."
The NAD team fully recognizes every Sandy project's importance to residents in areas that felt the storm's fury, its progress has only been possible through the support from and teamwork with those states and communities.
When Bethany Beach, Delaware Mayor Lew Killmer was asked about NAD's Sandy work, he shared the following thoughts: "Without the dedicated support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, not just for Hurricane Sandy but for all of the past and future hurricanes and Nor'Easters, the Town of Bethany Beach would have to be renamed simply Bethany, because without the Army Corps, we wouldn't have a BEACH, a boardwalk and our coastal residential, municipal and commercial properties."
Study focus areas analyze shoreline, develop solutions to manage future risk
The Army Corps collaborated with federal, state, local and tribal partners on the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study mandated by Congress and completed in January 2015 which developed shared tools to assess the flood risks of vulnerable coastal populations in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, and to identify potential solutions to reduce future risks across the region. The NACCS also identified nine additional focus areas for investigation, and continues to apply a regional framework to reducing risk for vulnerable coastal populations.
The nine additional focus areas include: New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries; Nassau County Back Bays, NY; New Jersey Back Bays; Washington, DC and Metropolitan Area; the City of Norfolk, VA; Delaware Inland Bays and Delaware Bay Coast; the City of Baltimore, the Cost of Rhode Island and the Coast of Connecticut.
As a result, NAD has worked with states and localities to sign agreements and analyze a suite of solutions to flood risks in bay environments, along rivers and tributaries, and behind barrier islands, such as storm-surge barriers, seawalls and bulkheads, restored marshes, and even elevated homes.