Corps to expedite Fire Island dredging

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to expedite a proposed $30 million dredging project that would take sand from Fire Island Inlet and spread it along eroded beaches to protect sections of Ocean Parkway damaged during Sandy.

Under the agreement announced Monday by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Corps will immediately allocate $350,000 for engineering and design of the project.

The funding to dredge more than 1 million cubic yards of sand and deposit it on the beaches at Gilgo and Robert Moses state parks is included in the Sandy Supplement Aid Package awaiting approval by the House of Representatives.

Schumer said in an interview that the Corps has agreed to make this the first project once funding is approved.

"This project will benefit commuters, benefit tourism and benefit fishermen and businesses that rely on a passable Fire Island Inlet, all at the same time," Schumer said in a statement. "It will transform sand from an enemy, in the case of Fire Island Inlet, to an asset" at the beaches. "This highlights the need for Sandy aid in this region."

Corps spokesman Chris Gardner said "after a large storm like Sandy we'll go out and do assessments to determine how much damage was done to the coastline and how much sand was lost." He said that assessment has been done in the Gilgo Beach area and it determined that about 1.2 million cubic yards of sand had been lost.

If Congress approves the emergency Sandy funding, the Corps would have to wait to see the language on exactly what is authorized before proceeding, Gartner said.

Even before Sandy struck, the Coast Guard has warned that Fire Island Inlet had become so clogged with sand that mariners should use other inlets. The corps found that the inlet was even shallower after the superstorm's huge waves and storm surge.

Last month, contractors hired by the state began work to rebuild a two-mile section of Ocean Parkway and the Robert Moses State Park traffic circle. The eastbound lanes, where waves washed away dunes and undermined the pavement, have been closed in some places and traffic routed onto one of the westbound lanes. The $33.2 million project also includes dredging more than a million tons of sand from Fire Island Inlet to restore five miles of dunes at Gilgo and Tobay beaches.

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he wants the road project completed before the summer beach season.

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