FEMA Approves Long Beach Infrastructure Mitigation Project

Long Beach Superstorm Sandy
Long Beach after Superstorm Sandy. (Kevin Kane/Long Island Press)

The federal government has approved the first phase of a potential $13-million hazard mitigation project in Long Beach designed to improve the city’s Superstorm Sandy-ravaged infrastructure, officials said.

The initial phase will cost $1.5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money. The funds will be used to support engineering, design and permitting for the project. It is all covered under FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The project’s go-ahead was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office Thursday.

“Communities like Long Beach are aggressively working toward this goal by fortifying their infrastructure, and this support from our federal partners, along with the state’s funding, is making these improvements possible,” Cuomo said in a press statement.

The FEMA funds will allow Long Beach to begin improving several facilities—the water treatment plant and storage tower, plus the waste-water treatment plant, electrical substations and the major gas pipeline—that were all flooded and forced to shut down when Sandy slammed into the barrier island on Oct. 29, 2012. Residents were cut off from water and power for weeks until emergency repairs were made.

The city was under a mandatory evacuation after the storm. Jim LaCarrubba, commissioner of public works, described the damage as “catastrophic.”

“Protecting those facilities are paramount for us,” LaCarrubba said in a phone interview.

He said the city would like to get the bulkhead up to base-flood elevation, and would then look into other options to protect the infrastructure and the island.

The city has until June 19, 2015 to come up with the designs.

Officials said the program will improve resiliency and mitigate risks of loss and damage during future storms.

“We know all too well the toll that a lack of preparedness takes on our communities. By focusing funds on these four engines to our infrastructure, like electrical sub-stations and water treatment facilities, recovery from the next big storm will be minimized in terms of time and cost,” said Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman.

Phase 1 will begin immediately, Long Beach officials said. Once it’s complete complete, the remainder of the money from the grant program will be provided to support construction, city officials said.

In total, Long Beach could potentially receive up to $12,936,000, according to the governor’s office. Seventy-five percent will be paid for by FEMA, and the remaining 25 percent by the state.

The state first announced last November its intention to get Long Beach FEMA funds to improve the facilities.