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Nov 20, 2012 6:53 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sandy Could Dust Off Long Awaited Shoreline Plans

Nov 20, 2012 9:21 AM

Federal response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy may be bringing a number of Army Corps of Engineers projects along the northeast coastline out of hibernation, including a long-awaited initiative to strengthen the East End’s natural and man-made defenses against the wrath of coastal storms.

Last week, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand called for seven Army Corps works projects that have been in limbo, some for decades, to be mobilized as part of the response to Sandy—which they said should be comparable to the massive upgrades to protective infrastructure following Hurricane Katrina’s flooding of New Orleans. Included in the list of the projects the senators called for action on was the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation, a massive project comprised of dozens of individual designs for erosion control and storm protections along the Atlantic shoreline of Fire Island and the South Fork.

The FIMP study, which spanned more than 20 years and cost upward of $30 million, was submitted by the Army Corps two years ago, but has never had its final details nailed down so that its recommended projects might move toward mobilization.

“The Army Corps must immediately begin to execute these federally-approved projects to protect New York’s coastal communities and rebuild stronger,” Senator Gillibrand said in a statement. “It is critical that we act quickly and responsibly to launch a road map for future storm and flood protection for New York.”

Among the recommendations in the FIMP project study are numerous large-scale beach nourishment projects—the pumping of millions of tons of dredged sand from natural stockpiles offshore onto ocean beaches—to bolster barrier island beaches and dunes so that they could better withstand the impact of storm surge and waves. The project plan also proposes a mechanical system to move sand flowing westward around the jetties of Shinnecock Inlet to prevent chronic erosion on the beaches of Hampton Bays and East Quogue.

The FIMP draft plan was delivered to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation by the Army Corps in late 2010. The DEC bounced the study back to the Army Corps, however, with a host of questions and requests for more clarification of various details of the findings and recommendations, particularly seeking alternatives to some of the most costly suggestions.

The various facets of the FIMP Reformulation project are estimated to cost between $600 million and $800 million in total.

The senators said that the Army Corps and U.S. Congress could bring the billions needed to effect such mammoth undertakings under the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act, which allowed for $14 billion in improvements to the 130-mile coastal barrier system surrounding New Orleans—fully funded by the federal government.

“This is a ready road map for storm- and flood-protection for New York that we can implement in the very near future that is affordable and based on the Army Corps’s successful actions after Katrina,” Senator Schumer said of the ambitious schedule of projects in the FIMP Reformulation and other projects they proposed be undertaken.

Along with the work on eastern Long Island the other projects include sea walls at the entrance to New York Harbor and expansions of the beachhead and dune system at Long Beach Island, the Rockaway Peninsula and Coney Island.

Even if the nearly unfathomable amounts of money for such work were to be dedicated to the projects, the federal proposals for the FIMP Reformulation would leave some areas of the South Fork without much in the way of additional protection. East of the Shinnecock Inlet, the study proposes only a few small-scale projects, primarily stockpiling sand to bolster beaches and dunes after events of severe erosion. Large scale works, like a renourishment of beaches in front of downtown Montauk, where Sandy’s waves and storm surge hammered the foundations of hotels and flooded downtown businesses, were not justified even in the best case funding scenarios, according to the Army Corps.

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