White Plains, NY — Members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators are asking the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a more in-depth study of a plan that could permanently alter the landscape and damage the ecosystem of the Hudson River and the Long Island Sound.

A coastal flood mitigation plan under consideration would erect giant sea barriers to block New York Harbor, the western end of Long Island Sound, the Hutchinson River, and other waterways.  These barriers will disrupt the migration of species and irrevocably change life for the residents of Westchester County. Legislators are concerned because proposals are being fast-tracked to conform to arbitrary limits that could be lifted by Congress.  

The legislators are calling for the Corps to extend the period for public comment, which is set to end November 5; hold more public hearings; and release all scientific and design information.

Nancy Barr (D - Harrison, Port Chester, Rye Brook), chair of the Board’s Environment, Health and Energy Committee, said, “It is inconceivable to me that a project of this magnitude, which could do irreparable damage and change the environment for generations, is being considered with such limited study of the potential impacts.”

Majority Leader Catherine Parker (D - Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Rye) said, “Westchester County and our Long Island Sound communities have made significant strides to improve water quality, improve the ecosystem, and utilize natural storm mitigation barriers. This looks like Long Island Sound is under threat of having all that good work be for naught.”
Majority Whip MaryJane Shimsky (D - Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington) said, “We cannot decide these issues using the level of care we devote to analyzing the environmental impacts of shopping malls or apartment towers. The federal government needs to provide the time and information to ensure that we do this right; and all affected state and local governments must unite to ensure that the best decisions are made and implemented.”

Tracy Brown, Director, Save the Sound, said, “Action must be taken to protect coastal communities from the impacts of climate change but fast-tracking the construction of massive in-water barriers is not the answer. We need more robust analysis of the impacts and alternatives and a process that includes all stakeholders, which definitely includes communities on the Sound shore.”

John Lipscomb, a Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President for Advocacy at Riverkeeper went a step further, saying plans for massive, in-water barriers “should be withdrawn. The Corps and New York State should start over with plans that address both storms and sea level rise without harming the River.”

The Corps’ public comment period has been extended through November 5, but the last scheduled public hearing on the proposal is set for this Thursday, September 20, at the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn.

Video of Tuesday’s meeting of the Board’s Environment, Health and Energy Committee meeting with representatives of Riverkeeper and Save the Sound is available here: https://bit.ly/2D9dl64