Workers finally started this month a long-stalled $1.7 billion federal project to mitigate storm damage from the South Fork to Fire Island, more than a half century after the idea was proposed.
Officials recently applauded the start of the Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point Project, known as FIMP for short, as crews prepared for the arrival of a dredge ship that will pump sand from the bottom of the ocean onto nearby beaches in the first of 11 contracts in the plan, which will also raise up to 4,400 structures.
“We don’t wan to talk about how long it has taken to get to this point,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said during a Dec. 17 news conference at the Fire Island Lighthouse celebrating FIMP’s kickoff, before doing just that. “It has actually taken 62 years to get to this stage of this announcement. … Why? In large part because there wasn’t the political will. There also wasn’t the money.”
The project finally received the federal funding it needed to move forward thanks to the $50 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package that was enacted nearly a decade ago.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone personified how it’s taken a generation for the plan to finally come together.
“I can guarantee you this is the first time and will be the last time I ever make this statement: I am thrilled to be attending today’s groundbreaking of a project initiated before I was born,” he said. “That will never happen again.”
He joked that the project is so complicated that its kickoff may have required divine intervention.
“I think you described it as a heavy lift,” Bellone said to Col. Matthew Luzzatto, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New York District, who is overseeing the work. “I was thinking, miracle.
“Multiple local, state and federal agencies coordinating, that is a miracle,” he added. “That doesn’t happen. Ever.”
While the initial construction is 100% federally funded, that intergovernmental cooperation may later prove tricky when an additional $1.5 billion worth of future beach renourishment work intended to maintain the project will instead be split 50/50 between the federal government and New York State and local governments.