A downtown portion of Troy’s sea wall is crumbling and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is considering giving the city $6.7 million to fix it. That would be a particularly good use of money from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, since the loss of that wall would create multiple hazards, environmental as well as economic.
People in the rest of the Capital Region should care about this issue because what happens in one of its major cities, and to one of its major rivers, affects us all.
The sea wall, made of stone, concrete and wood, was installed in 1922 and last repaired in 1978. And it’s in danger of failing, the result of general scouring from ice floes, which have become more prevalent with climate change, and fast-moving water after the recent hurricanes.
Failure would threaten the foundations of nearby buildings. The mere prospect of it could jeopardize the city’s plans for new waterfront development.
But it’s not just Troy’s economy that would be hurt by a failure of the sea wall. There’s also the Hudson River’s ecology. With a pipe carrying raw sewage running within 15 to 25 feet of the wall, failure could lead to a major environmental disaster.
Of course, Troy isn’t the region’s only city, or the Hudson its only river.
Last year, we praised FEMA for providing $49 million to fix eight dams along the Mohawk River damaged by Hurricane Irene.
At the same time, we criticized the agency for not including in its scope of work the Lock 7 dam in Vischer Ferry, and the dam’s possible role in the frequent flooding of Schenectady’s Stockade area. This could affect the marina planned as part of the Alco project.
Troy is not as at-risk as New Orleans, where, after Hurricane Katrina, some people were questioning whether rebuilding even made sense. Fixing the sea wall now would protect the city for many years. That’s what FEMA should do.