Cuomo: Long Beach to get $13M flood barrier

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that the state will supply funds to build up the area around the Long Beach wastewater plant and other infrastructure that were damaged by saltwater during superstorm Sandy. Videojournalist: Jim Staubister (Nov. 10, 2013)

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New York State will spend $13 million to build more than a mile of flood barriers to protect the Long Beach wastewater treatment plant and other critical infrastructure -- the first cutting-edge technology to harden the Long Island shoreline since superstorm Sandy.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Sunday announced plans for a 4,400-foot-long adjustable seawall and bigger bayside bulkheads.

The wall, which can be raised to 11 feet when a storm approaches, represents the biggest part of the project using federal funds through the NY Rising rebuilding program. The barrier, known as a Dutch Dam because of its use in the Netherlands, will stretch along the Long Beach industrial area that houses critical utility operations.

The project also includes extending bayfront bulkheads to a height of 11 feet.

"This is one of the first and most aggressive modifications post-Sandy" in New York, Cuomo said. "Many of these South Shore communities could do this."

Expanded bulkheads and the seawall -- more than 6,000 feet of combined barriers -- will effectively encircle the industrial area, including the sewage treatment plant, electrical substations and a major gas pipeline. They were damaged by surging saltwater from Sandy and were shut down for weeks for repairs, which Cuomo and local officials said slowed the city's overall recovery.

Cuomo, speaking at a news conference at the wastewater treatment plant on Park Place Sunday flanked by local leaders and State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), hailed the work as a bipartisan success and an example of "building back better" rather than merely making repairs, a theme of the NY Rising community reconstruction program.

But, citing the powerful typhoon that devastated the Philippines Friday, he warned that more "extreme weather events" are on the way, and that Long Beach -- and New York State -- would not be immune. "We believe it's going to happen again," he said.

Seawall and bulkhead construction is to start next year and will be managed by Long Beach, with the state reimbursing the city, according to the governor's office.

Sunday's announcement marks the commitment to funding; design work and project planning come next, officials said.

Long Beach City Council President Scott Mandel said the barrier work would be a "transformative project" for the city that just got its boardwalk fully reopened late last month.

The wastewater treatment plant was out of operation for 10 days, and the water treatment plant was shut down for nearly three weeks, with periodic outages after that while post-storm repairs continued. Electrical power was unavailable to the city for two weeks.

The Long Beach NY Rising Community Reconstruction Committee has sought to identify innovative ways to protect the city's infrastructure from the effects of future storms, Cuomo said.

An adjustable seawall is "one of the most exciting available options for what we're dealing with," Cuomo said.

When not in use, the Dutch Dam is at ground level and doesn't obstruct views. But when a storm is coming, it can be raised to protect against sea surges and flooding.

The $13 million NY Rising commitment for the project is in addition to $25 million already set aside for other reconstruction projects in the city.

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