Brookhaven leaders urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Thursday to expedite plans to safeguard Long Island's South Shore from major storms, but agency officials said they have already sped up the process as much as possible.
"We are going as fast as we can," said Ken Well, spokesman with the New York District Army Corps of Engineers, who said restoring dunes near Smith Point is scheduled to start early next year.
The dune restoration is part of an 83-mile Fire Island-to-Montauk Point project, known as FIMP. The $700-million effort would elevate about 4,400 homes in flood-prone mainland communities along bays and inlets, restore dunes and widen beaches on the South Shore in the next few years.
Town and village officials, fearful that even a moderate storm could again flood the likes of Patchogue, Mastic Beach and Fire Island, said waiting months is far too long. They asked for immediate action.
Local officials held a news conference in Patchogue Thursday in response to the Army Corps announcement early this week that it is fine-tuning the strategy to protect the South Shore. Officials said they came together to discuss the challenges and benefits of the federal plan.
"We're begging the Army Corps to get this project moving faster than normal so we can protect homes and people who live in this area," said Brookhaven Councilman Tim Mazzei, whose 5th District includes Fire Island. Dunes there, once as high as 15 feet, were wrecked by superstorm Sandy.
Homes in low-lying areas could be vulnerable if another storm strikes before the dunes are repaired, town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said.
Under FIMP, 39 Fire Island homes are targeted for demolition because they stand where dunes will be restored, but town officials said they have identified at least six of the homes that can instead be moved back on their existing property.
The town offered to transfer property in Davis Park to the federal agency in an attempt to keep at least another six homes from being torn down and spare the agency demolition and acquisition costs.
Army Corps officials said they will consider the offer.