On a High Note: 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.