Suffolk getting $16.5 million to buy storm-damaged properties and make them flood buffers

Flooding and debris caused by the storm surge Flooding and debris caused by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy remain in Mastic Beach Village on Wednesday, Oct 31, 2012. Photo Credit: Amanda Voisard

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Suffolk County will get $16.5 million in federal superstorm Sandy relief to purchase properties damaged by major storms and transform them into protective buffers against future flooding, Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday.

Amagansett will receive $9.9 million, Mastic Beach and Shirley will receive $5.6 million and Stony Brook will "tentatively" receive nearly $1 million under the federal Emergency Watershed Protection Program, Schumer said.

Money from the program, which is run by the United States Department of Agriculture, will be used to purchase properties from eligible property owners and remove any dwelling or man-made structures on the land to make way for floodplain restoration projects, officials said.

"Mastic-Shirley and other parts of Suffolk County were repeatedly hit by severe flooding from Sandy and Irene, and it's great news that the USDA has agreed to provide millions in federal Sandy relief funding for critical resiliency projects in these communities," Schumer said in a prepared statement. "With this funding, Suffolk County can work with willing homeowners to establish flood protection buffers that will build up natural defenses on the shores of Long Island against future storms."

Schumer said he urged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to approve funding for the Suffolk projects, which include 60 sites in Mastic-Shirley totaling 45.5 acres, 16 locations in Amagansett totaling 5.7 acres and a 4.6-acre site in Stony Brook.

The properties, which were selected by the National Resources Conservation Service, an arm of the USDA, had to meet certain criteria such as not having hazardous contamination issues, program officials said.

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While the property owner will still retain some rights to the land, no new construction will be allowed so that the land remains in its natural state, officials said.

Schumer said the floodplain restoration will reduce erosion and improve fish and wildlife habitats.

Suffolk County will administer the funding for the Mastic-Shirley and Stony Brook projects, and the Town of East Hampton will oversee the funding of the Amagansett project, program officials said.

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