Rutgers Experts Can Comment on NJ Back Bays Flooding Study

Expert Pitch

New Brunswick, N.J. (March 5, 2019) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick professors Qizhong (George) Guo and Karen M. O’Neill can provide insight on a recent New Jersey Back Bays Coastal Storm Risk Management Study interim report.

The study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in collaboration with the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, covers nearly 3,400 miles of shoreline and about 950 square miles in Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic, Burlington and Cape May counties. Storms such as Hurricane Sandy have severely impacted back bay communities in coastal New Jersey, according to the Army Corps.

The report includes an array of alternative plans for reducing risks to human life and flooding risk from coastal storms, including: storm surge barriers that would close inlets, and interior bay closures; levees and floodwalls; residential building retrofits; and natural and nature-based measures such as living shorelines, reefs, wetlands restoration and submerged aquatic vegetation.

“It is great that the Army Corps has been working with NJDEP to develop a comprehensive plan for the very challenging back bay flooding problems,” said Guo, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the School of Engineering. “It is also great that the plan looks at gray measures – conventional engineered structures – and green measures to restore natural processes for flood mitigation.”

“It would be interesting to compare what we proposed in a 2014 study for the NJDEP following Hurricane Sandy and what the Army Corps recommends,” Guo said. “We proposed ‘extendable flood walls’ that can be raised before a storm surge or if the sea level rises significantly in the future. These walls would remain low during normal times to avoid blocking views and access. We also proposed using wave energy and other forms of renewable energy to pump out flood water, and regional elevated causeways for both flood mitigation and adaptation of ecosystems to sea level rise, among other proposals.”

“New Jersey’s coastal communities can use this study to learn about options for managing back bays and to integrate these ideas into local decisions,” said O’Neill, an associate professor in the Department of Human Ecology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “They can also influence how the country’s top agency for managing shorelines plans for our coastal future.”

“Back bays are the ecological base for shore areas but their value, and their potential for ecotourism, are underappreciated,” O’Neill said. “The study investigates several options for engineering and planning, aiming to highlight the best options for specific portions of the bay. Policies and engineering techniques until now have focused on protecting the seaside, not the bayside. Learning about the special challenges for managing bays will be helpful as these communities plan for their future.”

O’Neill can comment on the history of the Army Corps in civilian works and the lack of an established norm or baseline engineering approach for reducing flood risk in back bay areas.

Guo is available to comment at

O’Neill is available to comment at


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