Flood walls, barriers and roller gates: State breaks ground on Hoboken project spurred by Superstorm Sandy

Rebuild by Design Hudson River Project aims to protect communities from storm surge flooding and rising sea-level threats posed by climate change

A host of local, state and federal officials helped break ground Thursday on the Rebuild by Design Hudson River Project in Hoboken, an infrastructure project aimed at protecting communities along the Hudson River from storm surge flooding and rising sea-level threats posed by climate change.

The project, made possible by over $230 million in Superstorm Sandy recovery funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, features an 8,846-foot series of flood walls, barriers, roller gates and other measures to provide flood risk reduction to the population and infrastructure within the project area’s 100-year flood plain.

The work also will protect critical infrastructure, including hospitals, emergency services such as firehouses and a hospital, and the North Hudson Sewerage Authority’s treatment plan.

Construction of the structure is scheduled to start in early 2022 and will run through 2025.

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said the significance of the day — and the project — are great.

“Help is finally here for Hoboken in our effort to substantially reduce flood risk with today’s historic groundbreaking of Rebuild by Design,” he said. “This project will now serve as a model for the rest of the country, integrating proven resiliency features with community amenities and a park that will help prevent storm surge from breaching our community, like it did during Superstorm Sandy.

“I’m very grateful to our partners in government at the federal, state and local levels for their steadfast commitment to helping Hoboken adapt to climate change.”

The groundbreaking represents the start of construction on the first phase of the project, a $5.26 million investment in modifications that include much-needed upgrades to portions of Hoboken’s aging infrastructure.

The work will convert portions of the area’s combined sewer system into separate sanitary and stormwater lines, an essential first step in improving stormwater management and a critical aspect of municipal resilience. This work will pave the way for the larger contract to install flood-risk reduction infrastructure.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has worked closely with the Hudson river communities since 2014 to design a project that works seamlessly to enhance the aesthetics of the community.

Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner shared Bhalla’s excitement.

“Now, we are beginning,” he said. “This has been an extremely complicated and, at times a difficult process. I want to thank all those involved in this tremendous undertaking. I look forward to its competition for the safety of Weehawken, Hoboken and Jersey City residents.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development authorized funding for the project as part of a design competition that followed widespread flooding from Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. The Rebuild by Design project is a national model for resilient infrastructure and the project’s comprehensive approach to resilience consists of four integrated components — resist, delay, store and discharge — to manage storm surge.

These components include a combination of hard infrastructure and soft landscaping to defend against storm surge and flooding, interconnected infrastructure to store and control stormwater runoff, and water pumps and other drainage projects to support controlled drainage during and after storms.

The event drew an all-start cast of elected officials, headlined by Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge. They were joined by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8th Dist.), Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, acting DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette and others.

“Our partnership with both the federal and local government to build a stronger and more resilient future for New Jersey’s waterfront communities is transformational,” Murphy said. “The comprehensive and innovative Rebuild by Design infrastructure project will mitigate the range of weaknesses along the Hudson River exposed by Superstorm Sandy and provide a suite of innovative solutions to address sea-level rise.

“Smart, future-focused infrastructure that will make our communities more resilient from the adverse effects of climate change, while creating good-paying jobs, is the future of American infrastructure.”