So we’re back to raising the town of Highlands

flood sign picAccording to this mornings NY Times, Highlands is back to considering raising the town as a way to mitigate future flooding. (heavy sigh) I’m guessing its because no one can come up with a better solution. There is one piece of the puzzle that no one seems to be considering here. Yes, I understand that there have been towns in the past that have built up or filled in as a way to mitigate flooding successfully. However, can any one give me ONE example of a town that did this had ALSO had to deal with run off from a hill?  Further, were any of these towns: Galveston, Chicago, Seattle butted up against the highest point in their area, in their state or on their coast?  — Crickets…

Sea Bright seems more a logical choice to follow the path of raising their town than does Highlands.

highlands flash flood waterwitch avenue & shore drive
Flooding in Highlands during normal rain storm of August 2012

You need more proof? Exhibit A: —>  Run off from the hills above. (And this was just a normal rain storm)

Most towns that contend with flooding (including New Orleans) JUST had to deal with tidal surges. WE have to deal with tidal surges, low lying areas AND flash flooding.

Add in the run off issues with the fact that we DO have tidal issues = bigger issue.  We’re NOT going to be able to mitigate one without addressing the other. Both have to be factored in to a complete solution.

If we listen to the Army Corps of Engineers and build a barrier along the waterfront and pump out the water that gets behind that wall, it would be like using a pail to bail out a boat with a hole. Just as quick as your bailing it out, it’ll come back in. That being said having SOME sort of barrier isn’t a bad idea. I believe it can help, but its NOT going to be the silver bullet.

That being said if we go forward with the barrier approach, the water will look for the path of least resistance, i.e. over the lower bulkheads of places like Captains Cove, and back through the sewer drains,  and when the tidal water hits the water in the drain that comes from the normal storm participation AND from the hill run off its going to go up through the soil and create the bath tub affect that Mayor spoke of at the last town hall meeting.

If we actually take Professor Szulecki approach to to import perhaps 3.5 million cubic yards of dredged material and elevate the entire downtown, its not going to stop the mudslide issues from happening. I personally think his estimation of  $25 million to $30 million, not including infrastructure work or raising homes and buildings, to raise Highlands by 8 to 10 feet is off. But it may be like the house lifting costs, when people argue that you can lift your house for under $30k, but its all the other work that puts that “all-in” number about $60k

So here’s my crazy idea:

Strategically Placed Sea Walls (not those rusty bulk-head things at the end of Barberie and Waterwith Aves), but actual Sea Walls  Marina’s will have to built up, meaning those 2 ft high walls in Washington won’t fly, do they need to be 14 – 16ft and of FEMA standard? No.. but at a min 5 – 7 ft above the roadway.
Regular Maintenance of the catch by the community center and of the sewer drain flaps we supposedly have.
House Lifting – Required for any house under 4 feet elevation. (If you flooded for the past 4 big storms over the last 60 years and still haven’t raised your bungalow, its kinda time) – For everyone else, its a personal choice thing, you can lift or not. If this was the first time your house ever flooded, (not since you owned it but ever) then no pressure. Beaches & Oysters – having beaches & oyster beds can help with flood mitigation. So make sure both are on the water side of the strategically placed sea walls.
RT 36 mapFrench drains on Rt 36 on both sides (this will take some cooperation from Middletown and the State since they own Rt 36) -My belief that if we ask the Governor for $200 million to raise the town or $10 to build French drains along the highway it’ll be a no-brainer, and if we have to we’ll have Sea Bright mayor Dina Long ask him, she seems to have the power to make him say yes on ideas.

Raise Whole DownTown – CBS


  1. I concur… dont think we need such a radical idea but a multi approach as you stated would work immediately for far less money. There is no way the Governor will approve that sort of budget for a town that does not bring in income like Seaside. I think the Governors of NY & NJ should consider the Outer Harbor Gateway project that would protect all of NYC and the Bay area towns In NJ including all major airports in area for long term solution to address rising seas.


  2. I like Mule 1’s ideas…. This could be a great opportunity to bring renewable energy sources to this community!
    But this is Highlands..and this is NJ. Hard to believe that such innovation would be embraced here. Sad. We are stuck in the mud in so many ways…!!


  3. I hope we can figure out some solutions because right now this is achingly sad to watch and to hear the tragic stories. It is so frustrating for every resident. Thanks to the Highlands blog for the daily communication, concern, and deep involvement.


  4. You are not powerless to offer your ideas on how to fix the flooding problem. Szulecki is a concerned citizen of this town and he educated himself on a possible solution that has some merit. All of the sustainable solutions are costly but not as costly as doing nothing or thinking the wall is going going to fix the problem. Seabright is not a candidate for the back filling concept according to Szulecki because they don’t have the natural back stop that Highlands has with the hill. But the fact is nothing is going to happen unless the Army corp decides what they want to do. The Army Corp will always do what they do best and that is take the path of least resistance. they are good at building walls. Having said that, they were the ones behind the Galvaston raising and they are going to do a feasibility study on the best way to solve the Highland issue. We need both a short term and long term fix. Bold ideas are needed for a very complex issue that has no simple answer. If you think you have the answer by all means let the mayor know in a constructive way. Just make sure you have all your facts by doing your homework. This town needs to come together and not have uptown verses downtown. We need an honest discussion where everyone listens and thinks outside the box.


    • I’m curious as to why you think this might be uptown vs downtown issue? – Because I really don’t think it is. I do agree that we (the town of Highlands) need some honest and open discussions about potential fixes. The only options I’ve heard of are back filling the town and build “a” sea wall. I (IMHO) don’t believe that either one is the correct approach. That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that maybe there are other options out there that just haven’t been publicly vetted. Hopefully we’ll hear other options at the town hall meeting.


    • To date there aren’t any other options that have been brought to the table but then again the ACOE feasibility study has not been done yet and that will determine a lot. I suggest you learn more about Szulecki’s idea before you categorize it as not being the correct approach. Contact him and discuss it with him and ask how and why he came to his conclusions. Ask him to write his findings to your readers. Maybe something great will come out of it.


  5. The guesstimate cost of raising the town is $25 Million. Before anyone gets the vapors over that number, consider the staggering amount of money the state has dumped into the former Xanadu – with NOTHING to show for it but lawsuits. Nobody lives in Xanadu, or whatever it’s called now; Highlands might be small but it does have businesses and tax payers – and humans living in it. The state could do better by not throwing money into losers like Revel and Xanadu and helping its citizens save their town for the long term.
    Just sayin’


    • I read an article in the APP that the cost of the bridge to connect Seabright to Rumson is estimated at $60mm. To put the mayors idea in perspective.


    • Just so we’re all on the same page, from NYT “Professor Szulecki estimated that dredging the bay and using the fill to raise Highlands by 8 to 10 feet would cost about $25 million to $30 million, *not including* infrastructure work or raising homes and buildings.” – it’s the not included costs that is worrisome as well as the actual feasibility of the project.


  6. One question….and I know it’s a mute point, but…the hill and the bay have been in the same spot for years….and rain is not exactly a “new concept”….so who had the bright idea to put a town here in the first place? I’m no engineer, but is it really a surprise to anybody if you build like this so close to the water….there’s a good chance you’ll have flooding issues.


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