Fire Island Dune Rebuilding Plan Hits Snag

Fire Island Dune
Crews used sand bags to rebuild dunes flattened by Sandy.

A project to rebuild most Sandy-flattened dunes on Fire Island should be completed this spring, but red tape may keep the island’s residential area from having its beach rebuilt until next winter.

That’s the word from lawmakers who have been urging New York State and federal agencies to start the shovel-ready dune projects at two parks on either end of the barrier island while officials work to secure easements from about 20 private oceanfront properties in the middle before that part can begin.

“We did not want to wait,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) told reporters Sunday during a news conference at Smith Point County Park in Mastic. “God forbid there are more storms this summer. You want a repeat of what happened? No way!”

He and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) pushed to ensure sand dredged offshore will replenish 15-foot dunes at Smith Point on FI’s eastern end and Robert Moses State Park on the western tip before the window for such work closes in March.

A U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers (ACE) spokesman had told the Press last week that the work on FI was not expected to start until winter of 2014, potentially leaving the hard-hit barrier island vulnerable for another hurricane season.

But, ACE and the state Department of Environmental Conservation will start work on the less complicated two thirds of the island instead of waiting until plans are finalized for the final part, Schumer and Bishop said over the weekend. They added that they will push the agencies to try and get the middle part of the island replenished with sand before the deadline too, but would not venture to guess the odds of that happening.

The work is part of the Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point Project, a storm mitigation plan for 83 miles of Long Island’s eastern waterfront that was half century in the works before receiving $700 million in Sandy aid funding.

“It is imperative that the low-lying Mastic Peninsula receive protection as soon as possible,” Bishop said, echoing concerns across LI’s South Shore bay front communities that are equally concerned about the weakened barrier island’s ability to absorb another major storm surge.