Islip approves beach erosion control projects

Fire Island Inlet dredging continues on Feb. 21, Fire Island Inlet dredging continues on Feb. 21, 2013. Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

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The Town of Islip has approved about $130,000 in contracts for erosion control along beach communities on Fire Island -- projects that would be dismantled if the Army Corps of Engineers moves forward with a massive beach replenishment project.

The town board approved a pair of contracts Tuesday for J.M. Nassau-Suffolk Landscape Co. to create berms in separate erosion control districts on the Lonelyville and Fair Harbor oceanfronts, saying the projects totaling 7,400 cubic yards of sand are emergency precautions to ward off future storm damage.

But the state Department of Environmental Control permits issued for the project require the demolition of the sandbags if the Army Corps embarks on its large-scale beach replenishment. Islip officials said this week that the corps has indicated it plans to move forward with the project, though it has not publicly announced its plans.

Councilman John J. Cochrane Jr. questioned the board's approval of the districts' decisions to spend the money, which will be paid from their own erosion control funds, because of the likelihood of demolition.

"I want to see it done because we have to protect our people on Fire Island, but I don't want to see our taxpayers on the hook for something that is only going to be there for four months," Cochrane said. "I just want to make sure we're not getting ourselves in a bad situation."

Jerome Feder, a member of the Fair Harbor Beach Erosion District advisory board, said district officials hope FEMA would reimburse part of the funds. "We're assuming this is a stopgap measure, and we're hoping that the Army Corps of Engineers comes in," Feder said. "These are small amounts of money compared to some of the damage that might be done by the ocean."

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The projects -- which would include the installation of beach grass, fencing and sandbags along the oceanfronts -- are expected to begin Tuesday, said John Cannarelli Jr., vice president at the East Moriches-based landscaping company.

The DEC permits require the removal of the sandbags if the Army Corps proceeds with a beach replenishment, Feder said. The DEC also requires the completion of the work by March 31 to avoid interference with the migration of federally protected piping plovers. A DEC spokesman did not respond to a message seeking comment.

An Army Corps spokesman said generally that small-scale erosion mitigation projects probably have minimal effect on a beach replenishment.

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The Fair Harbor project will cost $82,088 and the Lonelyville project will cost $46,210, town officials said. Lonelyville district officials could not be reached for comment.

Erica Fried, deputy commissioner of the Fair Harbor erosion control district, said residents of the community's 400 homes are eager to have a safeguard in place. She said there are no plans to raise taxes to pay for the work.

"We don't know when the replenishment is actually going to take place," Fried said. "If it happens very soon, we would regret spending the money, but meanwhile we have to keep our community safe."

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