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FACT SHEET-New York Harbor & New Jersey (Drift Collection)

Operations and Maintenance Phase Drift and Floatables Collection Vessels

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
Published Nov. 22, 2023

DESCRIPTION: The authorized project area is the New York & New Jersey Harbor Estuary, from the New Jersey Atlantic Highlands to the Tappan Zee Bridge, including adjacent and tributary waters, and Long Island Sound. Drift collection vessels are used on a daily basis (one vessel works on each weekend day) to collect large floating drift that is a threat to the many deep-draft cargo carriers and petroleum tankers, as well as the growing number of high-speed passenger commuter ferries, cruise ships and recreational vessels. Consistent with the authorization of the Water Resources Development Act of 1990, floatables, especially increased floatables from heavy rain events, are simultaneously effectively and efficiently collected to protect the shoreline and beaches of New York and New Jersey.  The project effort consists of locating, collecting, removing and disposing of up to 530,000 cubic feet or drift and floatables per year, which equates to about 450 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) of inter-modal cargo containers, or 225 forty-foot highway tractor-trailers.  Drift is a very serious threat to all vessels’ hulls, rudders and propellers.  

AUTHORIZATION: The project is authorized by Section 2 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1915 (38 Statue 1051); modified by Section 1 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1917, (40 Stat. 252) and by Section 6 of the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1930 (46 Statute 947) and expanded in Section 102 (v) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1990 (WRDA ’90) (P.L. 99-662) to collect floatables (floating debris that has washed into the waterways) while collecting floating timber and drift.  This project is 100% federally funded, and there is no local cost-sharing sponsor.  

STATUS: The project is an ongoing year-round maintenance operation.  During Fiscal Year 2023 (last year of available data) 285,417 cubic feet of drift and floatables (equivalent of 119 forty-foot shipping containers) were collected.  Removing drift and floatables each year results in the avoidance of approximately $35,250,000 of damages to the many cargo vessels, tankers, barges, passenger commuter ferries, cruise ships, and recreational vessels.  This yields an annual benefit-to-cost ratio of 2.8.  Consistent with the authorization in the Water Resources Development Act of 1990, floatables are also collected so they do not escape the harbor and pollute the New Jersey and New York bathing beaches.  Since the Corps of Engineers implemented the Water Resources Development Act of 1990 authorization there has not been a major beach closure because of fugitive drift and debris from the areas covered by the Corps of Engineers per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Floatables Action Plan annual report.  Prior to the inclusion of floatables collection, these beaches were often closed because of wash ups of fugitive debris and drift.  The most infamous period was the summers of 1987 and 1988.  The environmental and economic benefits of assisting to keep the bathing beaches safe and open have not yet been completely developed.

FUNDING:  Annual Federal Cost was $12,584,000 for FY2023.


Richard Thorsen
Project Manager
P: (201) 309-2350
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
Caven Point Marine Terminal, 3 Chapel Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07305

District Area: NY 5-17, NJ #3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12