South Shore resiliency

Mill River area granted $125 million by Rebuild by Design


It was announced Tuesday morning that Nassau County — specifically Mill River — would be the recipient of $125 million in federal grant money from the Rebuild By Design contest, which aims to improve the areas infrastructure to better prepare for the next Hurricane Sandy.

The winning design, “Living with the Bay,” was proposed by The Interboro Team, a collaboration between Dutch and American designers to improve the South Shore area to make it more resilient to future storms. The first part of the project focuses on Mill River, which flows through Rockville Centre, East Rockaway and Oceanside.

“Nassau County was one of the areas that was hardest hit by Sandy and continues to be one of the most vulnerable areas in the region,” said Georgeen Theodore, the principal at Interboro Partners. “So we’re very happy that the research and design that our teamed developed will receive funding, because it will reduce that in the future.”

The Interboro Team was one of 10 finalists competing for a portion of the $4 billion in federal funds dedicated to Rebuild By Design by the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In the team’s presentation, it said that there was no single “silver bullet” solution to solving the Island’s flooding problem. A surge barrier would stop tidal surges, but the area would still be susceptible to flooding from heavy rainfall.

The multi-faceted plan includes:

•Sluice gates along inland canals, streams and rivers that would remain open at most times but would close during a storm with a heavy tidal surge.

•Bioswales, which are landscaped trenches along roads that are designed to hold water.

•Upstream reinfiltration systems, which would pump triple-treated sewage water from the Bay Park treatment plant in East Rockaway back upstream so it can be deposited in inland waterways, instead of the bays, to help recharge Nassau’s sole-source aquifer.

•Aquaphilic urban planning, for which apartment buildings and other structures would be designed to remain usable after a flood.

•Water “detention” centers under municipal properties such as parks, where water would be sent into underground storage cisterns in a flood. Such cisterns could be built in places like Bligh Field in Rockville Centre.

The development of Mill River would make the area safer and more accessible. As the first phase of the Interboro project, the team plans to install a sluice gate on Mill River, creating a riverfront park that would also filter stormwater and adding stormwater swales to areas adjacent to the river.

Theodore explained that, as things stand now, stormwater drains straight back into the ground and makes its way to streams and rivers, taking any pollutants with it. The filtration system Interboro is proposing would help clean the water in the rivers and bays.

But Mill River is just one part of the Interboro project. Also included in the proposal are plans to build a better barrier for Long Beach and other barrier islands, building more marsh islands in the saltwater marshes and turning Sunrise Highway into a “green corridor.” Those aspects of the project do not have funding yet.

“Mill River is one of many north-south tributaries in Nassau County,” Theodore said. “It’s prototypical and could be applied to other north-south rivers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties to better contain flood water.” She went on to explain that her team is going to continue to look for funding from different stakeholders and Rebuild By Design for the rest of the project.