Scot designs New York flood defence

IMAGES of the Statue of Liberty under water are usually confined to fantasy Hollywood films, but concerns about rising sea levels have prompted a Glaswegian engineer to design a Thames barrier-style flood defence for New York.

Graeme Forsyth, who works for Halcrow in Glasgow, is one of four engineers from around the world who have been invited to submit designs for a flood barrier for the 'Big Apple'.

The designs will be presented at a conference organised by the American Society of Civil Engineers in Brooklyn this month amid concerns that New York is one of the key cities at risk of catastrophic flooding in future as a result of climate change.

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American academics are warning US policymakers that New York could potentially suffer the same fate as New Orleans as sea levels rise and there is an increase in the frequency of violent storms such as Hurricane Katrina. The OECD has also said New York is one of the world's wealthiest three cities at risk of coastal flooding.

Forsyth's design is based on a similar project that Halcrow has been involved with in St Petersburg, where the Russian government has funded a 15-mile-long barrier that is due for completion next year.

His design involves a five-mile flood defence in the Lower Bay of New York between the Rockaway Peninsula and Sandy Hook. The barrier would consist of a series of gates, each measuring the length of a football pitch.

The design would also allow for a ring road to run across the top of the flood defence if desired.

Halcrow has estimated the cost of the project at $5.9bn.

Although discussions about a flood defence in New York are only at a very preliminary stage, Forsyth said the St Petersburg scheme shows such projects are possible.

"We are coming up with a concept which has a proven history in St Petersburg," he said.

"Local opinion in the US appears to be that New York is preparing for the possibility of flooding."

Forsyth's design will be made public at a two-day conference starting on March 30 at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn, New York.