Feasibility & Community Engagement to Get Funding for Rebuild by Design Hudson River
The devastation of Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 led many impacted communities along the East Coast to start exploring long-term solutions to address sea level rise and coastal flooding. The State of New Jersey, and in particular the entire city of Hoboken and parts of Weehawken and Jersey City, with support from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and The Rockefeller Foundation, developed The Rebuild By Design Hudson River project that outlined an urban water strategy for dealing with flood waters caused by storm surge, high tide, and heavy rainfall. Specifically, it proposed resilience measures including: • Coastal and/or inland hard infrastructure for surge defense designed to enhance the community recreational and aesthetic experience (Resist). • Urban infrastructure to collect and slow rainwater runoff as well as policy recommendations and guidelines establish long-term urban storm water management strategies (Delay). • A circuit of interconnected grey/green infrastructure to store and then direct excess rainwater either back into the sewer system or into an outfall (Store). • Water pumps and alternative routes to support drainage with mechanical or gravity discharge of rainwater (Discharge). This proposal was awarded $230 million in funding from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program pending approval of required feasibility and community engagement work. Because of the transformative nature of this undertaking, along with the fact that it was proposed in a densely populated community, a robust, engaging public outreach effort was necessary. In June 2015, Dewberry, as prime consultant, partnered with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to prepare the required feasibility study and environmental impact statement (EIS) for the RBD Hudson River project. The EIS incorporated technical studies on everything from natural resources and socioeconomics, to land use, historic preservation, and visual resources (such as geospatial imagery of project areas to demonstrate impacts of potential future flooding for planning purposes). These studies focused on ensuring that the project would maximize protection to the community, while minimizing potential negative impacts to the built, natural, and social environment. The Feasibility Study identified, developed and investigated a range of potential specific, implementable solutions that could be used to achieve the overarching RBD Hudson River strategy. Through the process Dewberry took a long list of potential options, ultimately recommended a solution to the community that would deliver the best value – in terms of flood risk reduction, constructability, viability, and impacts to a citizen’s everyday life. Specific analysis included: coastal flood and rainfall modeling, utility impacts, subsurface soil conditions, right-of-way impacts, traffic/pedestrian flow, construction cost, detailed environmental impacts and a benefit cost analysis. When combined, the robust EIS and Feasibility study resulted in approval by HUD to advance into final design and construction. In October 2017, five years after Superstorm Sandy, the federal government released the full $230 million CDBG-DR grant funds to the State of New Jersey for the project – making it the first RBD project to have full funding authorization by the federal government.