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Editorial: A good start to prevent Nassau flooding

Tropical Storm Irene devastated parts of Long Island

Tropical Storm Irene devastated parts of Long Island in August, causing major flooding and power outages. FEMA flood maps placed more than 90,000 Nassau and Suffolk buildings in flood zones. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Long Island is defined by water. Our viability in an age of rising sea levels and more severe storms will depend on how well we manage that water. Sandy was our object lesson. So it is good news that part of an innovative plan to protect Nassau County's South Shore from flooding has won $125 million in federal funding in a rebuilding design competition.

The funded portion would protect the Mill River watershed from Rockville Centre down through East Rockaway to Island Park and the Western Bays. It requires cooperation from several layers of government -- primarily Nassau, Hempstead Town and the Village of Rockville Centre -- something seldom seen on Long Island but clearly on display in this case. The project also promises to serve as a model for other communities with tributaries prone to flooding during storms.

The project -- from a team of Dutch and American design and engineering firms led by Brooklyn-based Interboro Partners -- includes a sluice, or tidal gate, near the Mill River's mouth. Other features include turning underused areas along the river in Rockville Centre into public parkland and constructing bioswales, essentially ditches filled with vegetation, along streets next to the river. Both would retain and filter excess stormwater. The idea is to stop water coming up from the bay during storm surges while managing stormwater runoff coming downstream from mid-Island.

The Interboro team is drafting an action plan, and is working with the federal government, philanthropic organizations and advocacy groups to seek funding for other portions of its proposal. We hope the Mill River is just a start, that other vulnerable communities will consider Interboro's ideas and that money is found to implement them. Sandy exposed our weaknesses. We shouldn't pass up opportunities to shore up our defenses.