Workers repair damaged dune along Ocean Parkway
Pounding surf and nor'easter winds washed away part of the state's $33 million, post-Sandy Ocean Parkway repair, leaving crews working round-the-clock to fix a gaping hole in a dune.
Such repair projects will be frequently needed as climate change brings more frequent severe weather to Long Island, planning experts said.
"Repeatedly protecting our infrastructure for yesterday's threats is not a sustainable use of public money," said Ethan Strell, associate director and fellow at Columbia University's Center for Climate Change Law in Manhattan.
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Bove Industries Inc., the state Department of Transportation emergency contractor, mobilized Sunday afternoon to stanch the erosion caused by offshore storm. The work will keep a portion of one eastbound lane of the popular shoreline road closed until Friday, the company said. The ocean had come within 15 feet of the road.
Officials Monday had no cost estimate for the new repairs, which the state will fund.
Sandy destroyed the dunes between Gilgo Beach and Jones Beach as well as a stretch of the eastbound parkway, and badly eroded the traffic circle at the southern end of the Robert Moses Causeway. Crews rebuilt the dunes and roadway through the winter, under pressure from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to get the parkway and beaches open by Memorial Day weekend.
That project, using a combination of state and federal money, only restored the dunes and parkway to pre-Sandy condition. The state did not pursue design options that would have built in more robust, protective buffers because federal funding would not have been immediately available and would have delayed the project.
Now that the weekend's heavy surf and winds gnawed a football field-sized hole in part of the dune, experts said making significant infrastructure-hardening investment can no longer be postponed.
"We have to accept that design for 100-year storms is no longer sufficient," said Neal Lewis, executive director at Molloy College's Sustainability Institute in Farmingdale. "At some point we need to realize we need more serious and more expensive solutions to make our infrastructure more resilient."
John Cameron, chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, said the break in the dune showed "the rush to implement short-term quick fixes is not consistent with good engineering practices for a long-term resiliency plan."
Clifford Sondock, president of the Land Use Institute in Jericho, said the decision left taxpayers again footing the bill for repairs. Rebuilding the road and dunes to pre-Sandy condition "was a politically-motivated quick fix aimed at pleasing the public in short order," Sondock said. "But it was nothing more than an infrastructure improvement built on a bed of sand."
Representatives of Cuomo's office did not respond to a request for comment.
To get Ocean Parkway open by summer, the state rejected a marine-grade steel wall engineers initially designed as a below-ground buffer between dune and road.
They also jettisoned plans to use large boulders as the base of the reconstructed dune to provide better anchoring against waves. Transporting many tons of rock from upstate quarries would have been difficult and time-consuming, contractors noted at the time.
Shoring up the newly damaged dune will include moving about 30,000 cubic yards of sand, said Bove general superintendent Sean Bratt and a state DOT official at the site yesterday.
The sand is being trucked to the area in 27-cubic-yard loads and then positioned by bulldozers. Sand for the dune rebuilding is being taken from a related U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project dredging Fire Island Inlet as part of a broader post-Sandy beach protection project.
"Once complete, it will provide additional protection for Ocean Parkway," DOT spokesman Beau Duffy said.
That project, which is working east-to-west, was within a half-mile of the Gilgo stretch damaged over the weekend.