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Rutgers chosen in flood prevention, mitigation research

<p>The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection  awarded the School of Engineering $520,000 and appointed Qizhong Guo principal investigator for flood research and mitigation.</p>

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection  awarded the School of Engineering $520,000 and appointed Qizhong Guo principal investigator for flood research and mitigation.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection chose six New Jersey schools to address flooding in the state.

Rutgers University, Montclair State University, Monmouth University, The New Jersey Institute of Technology, Stevens Institute of Technology and The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey will use the money granted to research flood prevention and mitigation around Barnegat Bay, the Arthur Kill tidal strait, the Hudson and Hackensack Rivers, and the Delaware Bay.

The NJDEP awarded the Rutgers University School of Engineering $520,000 and named Qizhong Guo, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the principal investigator of the Rutgers division.

“Each school is responsible for a certain role in the project, and our expertise is drainage,” Guo said.

They are looking for technology to trap rainfall collecting too quickly for local bodies of water to drain, he said.  

“You maybe want to design some kind of barrier that can let water leave, but not come in,” Guo said. “It is a question of design that anybody can try contributing to.”

Current ideas involve using blue roofs, layouts that allow temporary collection of water while draining, and green roofs, layouts that use a layer of vegetation and soil before draining, he said. Alternative solutions involve water barrels and rain gardens.

Vegetation slows down water a great deal, with much of the water going to the plants and soil, he said.

According to the New York Environmental Protection website, green roofs are more expensive than blue roofs, but absorb noise and air pollution and cool roofs in addition to absorbing rainfall.

Guo said once the rainfall is dealt with, the water’s flow rate and path could be controlled.

“Flooding usually occurs from near bodies of water either being too high in water level or storm surges, the forcing of water to land through the wind and air pressure,” he said. “Flooding can also occur through insufficient drainage.”

Improving control of the rainfall path allows nearby bodies of water to drain water downstream, he said.

Efforts for control are often traditional, he said. Little has changed since the 1980s, when city planners began implementing detention basins, which are valleys leading to pipelines.

Detention basins can be found all around campus, he said.

The amount of sophistication put into drainage efforts depends on the infrastructure that already exists in an area, Guo said. People can evacuate and move out of a community, but hospitals and electrical stations cannot, putting them in priority of flood protection.

There may be some places that may not be salvageable without large-scale projects like 30-foot walls, he said. Even during the spring tide, people in the Barrier Islands get flooded.

“The sea level rising and climate change is another thing the project addresses,” he said. Structures in many locations are nearly 100 years old, and were constructed when the sea level was lower.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program website, New Jersey is the third highest state for flood insurance claims in 2012 with nearly $273 million.

The collaboration is in the interest of time, he said. People have already researched data for some locations that others can put into use, making this a joint effort to protect the state.

NJIT, for instance, will be providing data on the environmental impact of any added structures, he said. Stevens is responsible for providing data models of storm surging and hurricanes.

“We foresee a lot of opportunities for students to get involved in design and construction,” Guo said.

Even with all of the data and planning, it is most important to get in touch with people in the community, he said. People with intimate knowledge of the community may know specific places more prone to flooding.

“From an engineering point of view, everything is possible,” he said. “We’ve sent people to the moon and rovers to Mars.”

He encourages students to submit creative ideas, and can be contacted at qguo@rci.rutgers.edu.

The project, which started in August and will last six months, is still in its planning stage. Chances for volunteering in design, implementation and construction will be available in the future.

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