On a High Note: Oysters Could Protect New York City From the Next Hurricane

Oysters Could Protect New York City From the Next Hurricane

Restaurants around New York City are donating their oyster shells to a restoration project called Living Breakwater, which plans to rehabilitate Staten Island’s coastline by constructing oyster reefs. This $107 million project aims to control flooding and erosion while also providing a new home for marine life.

As the climate changes, extreme storms can be increasingly destructive and human-caused ocean warming, which causes sea level rise, can make flooding more frequent and intense. Hurricane Sandy in 2019 caused an estimated $19 billion in damages and killed 44 people in New York City alone. Last year, the city put aside $1.4 billion to bolster Manhattan’s east side against flooding with raised parklands, flood walls, and berms. But the Living Breakwater project, as a green infrastructure solution, has unique benefits that these other construction projects do not. Oyster reefs are regenerative, and are thus more cost-effective and durable, providing a promising new way of shoring up coastlines against flooding.

“We have been living in this world where nature has existed sort of as a backdrop,” Kate Orff, founding principal of the firm behind Living Breakwater, told the Guardian. “But that background is no longer there, it’s in a state of collapse. We have to foreground the notion of rebuilding natural systems right now otherwise we will not have this bridge to the future.”

PEW: How Oysters Revitalize Native Waters, November 18, 2021.

Now This: How Billion Oyster Project Will Save New York's Waterways | One Small Step, September 27, 2021.