Sandy Spurs Talk of Sea Barrier for New York

Jock Fistick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

ABC News' John Muller and Taylor Behrendt report:

In the wake of superstorm Sandy's massive destruction to coastlines in the East Coast, many experts suggest that a sea wall barrier could have minimized the deadly storm surge that swept away homes and knocked out power to millions.

The catastrophe prompted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to propose this week that a feasibility study to consider the idea.

Oceanography professor Malcolm Bowman told ABC News that a sea wall barrier could have stopped Sandy's 14-foot storm surge earlier this week that crippled the city by flooding the subway system and parts of the electrical grid.

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"If we had implemented these barriers by now there would have been no damage to New York City resulting from Sandy. By that I mean no damage coming from the ocean," Bowman said, who teaches at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

Places like St. Petersburg, Russia, London and the Netherlands could serve as models since their sea walls control flooding for areas that are either at sea level or below.

Invited by Bowman and his colleague Douglas Hill, two European engineering firms have drawn up proposals for walling most of New York off from the sea. The barriers are very high tech and in one design, a wall lays flat on the bottom of the harbor, pivoting up when needed to block a storm surge.

Although the sea barriers offer great protection for low-lying coastal areas, they come with a hefty price tag. One proposal for New York's harbor costs more than $6 billion. Skeptics say the massive barriers would not work on long stretches of the coastline like the New Jersey shore.

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"When you have an enormous harbor like we do and Long Island Sound, even if you spend a fortune, it is not clear to me that you would get much value for it," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this week. With the damage estimate for this storm reaching in the tens of billions of dollars, many are now saying it's time to consider new ideas.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened the door to new ideas, saying that the government has a responsibility to think about new designs and techniques to protect the city that he described as "vulnerable," on Wednesday.

"I am not proposing we start pouring concrete next week. What I am proposing is a feasibility study. We need to do that if we are serious about protecting the city from further catastrophes," Bowman said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report