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Posted 11/24/2015

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By V. Elias
USACE New York District

NEW YORK DISTRICT -- On November 19, 2015, USACE senior leaders met with Minister Chen Lei, Ministry of Water Resources of the People's Republic of China and Delegation. The Delegation was hosted to a Hurricane Sandy Recovery Program Status Briefing session afloat in the cabin of the USACE Vessel Hocking.  Various presentations were made by USACE senior leaders with discussions on Hurricane Sandy coastal restoration efforts.

USACE is cooperating with China on areas of mutual interest such as storm mitigation.  

The Ministry is the department within China's Central People's Government responsible for managing water resources in that country.

USACE is known for storm and flood mitigation projects in the United States and possess expertise in engineering and construction.

USACE also undertakes projects in nations in the Asia-Pacific region, which includes China.

In 2013 as part of an annual U.S. and China disaster management exchange, a Chinese delegation visited New York where USACE's response to Hurricane Sandy was discussed and its efforts along the Northeast coast in response to the major storm. The 2013 strategic engagement and participation with China was the focus of disaster response procedures.

USACE leaders involved in the November 2015 discussions included Mr. Steve Stockton, HQ USACE Director of Civil Works; Ms. Ada Benavides, Assistant Director for Civil Works and Senior Water Resources Policy Advisor, HQ USACE; Brig. Gen. William Graham, Commanding General, USACE North Atlantic Division; Mr. David Leach, Director of Programs, USACE North Atlantic Division; Col. David Caldwell, Commander, USACE New York District; and  Mr. Joseph Seebode, Deputy District Engineer for Programs and  Project Management, USACE New York District.

There are many similarities in China in terms of climate, weather systems and coastal terrain with large coastal population areas.  China is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and gets hit frequently with destructive typhoons along its Pacific Coast.

Ms. Jing Xu, Deputy Division Chief, Department of International Cooperation, Science and Technology explained how China’s coast receives up to 30 hurricanes each year. 

“In the western Pacific near China, tropical cyclones are referred to as typhoons,” said Ms. Jing Xu.  In July and early August 2012, Typhoon Haikui was the third tropical cyclone in the span of one week to impact Mainland China. Typhoon Haikui caused widespread and severe damages to homes. The city of Shanghai closed all parks and suspended outdoor construction. Port officials called ships back to shore to ride out the storm. At least 200,000 in the city were evacuated and another 256,000 were relocated.

While on the New York Harbor, various comprehensive briefings were presented by USACE to the Minister and Delegation about the USACE Civil Works Mission and Hurricane Sandy emergency response and recovery from 2012 to present. USACE is studying coastal storm risk management in various parts of New York and issued draft reports with project recommendations for review. The briefings highlighted ongoing coastal restoration projects and studies along the New York coastline.

USACE leaders spoke about reduction measures and construction work, and explained projects and studies such as the Sea Gate-Coney Island Improvement Project; the South Shore of Staten Island, NY Coastal Storm Risk Management Project; and the East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet / Jamaica Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study.

The USACE leaders elaborated about the progress and continued commitment to storm risk management and reducing risk to coastal communities. Video presentations depicted storm damages from Sandy to coastal areas, Manhattan infrastructure, and to densely populated urban communities. The New York coastal areas have a long history of storm damages and have experienced major storm damages from various recent storm events, including Northeaster's. The area is increasingly vulnerable to severe damages even from moderate storms. Storms have caused flood damages, loss of structures, large scale evacuations and deaths within coastal communities.

Since October 2012, USACE has executed a vast amount of coastal restoration work and made great progress on studies for future Coast Flood Risk Reduction projects. USACE continues to complete repair and restoration contracts and continues to study and design new projects to reduce risks to communities from future coastal storm damages. 

For example, the Sea Gate/Coney Island project and storm damage protection to densely populated urban communities and infrastructure along the shoreline of Coney Island. Shore protection was provided by constructing a beach berm above sea level. The project included construction of a long terminal groin and sand placement to protect the groin against flanking and to prevent down drift conditions. Another study and project discussed was the South Shore of Staten Island project and study which covers 13 miles of coastline along the New York City borough; and the Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study for assessing coastal storm risk management alternatives.

The event included a group photo near the Statue of Liberty National Monument and concluded with a reciprocal memento exchange on the dock.

The Hurricane Sandy Recovery Program Status Briefing was an important strategic engagement and made a difference in understanding the capabilities of USACE. 

Hurricane Sandy Recovery Program New York District USACE