Islip OKs $19.9M Fire Island beach project

Breach on Fire Island Fire National Seashore west Breach on Fire Island Fire National Seashore west of William Floyd Parkway that was caused by superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Doug Kuntz

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The Islip Town Board this week voted to go forward with a beach replenishment project for the town's Fire Island communities, a move Supervisor Tom Croci said was key to maintaining the barrier island that is the South Shore's natural levee.

"We have an open beach there; our houses are at the will of the ocean, so if you're going to do anything it has to be fast-tracked," said Dennis Sommeso, a year-round Kismet resident, during the public hearing.

In a roll-call vote Tuesday, the board voted to bond for the $19.9 million beach replenishment project, which would be paid for by the Fire Island erosion control districts. During the same meeting, the board voted to hire Coastal Planning and Engineering to do an environmental assessment of the beaches.

The cost for that assessment would be about $323,000, also paid for by the town's erosion control districts, according to the resolution.

Most of the beaches are "managed," thus would be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement of up to 75 percent, said Fire Island Association president Suzy Goldhirsch.

Councilman Anthony Senft expressed concern that, because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might step in to help replenish the beaches at no cost to the town, moving forward on the project by bonding might deter the Corps from helping. But Goldhirsch said that's not the case, and that the town shouldn't wait to act.

"It's a two-track project -- FEMA, because we're engineered beaches," Goldhirsch said, "and the Army Corps saying, 'We're coming, don't worry, the cavalry is coming.' But if that does happen, FEMA will withdraw and we won't have spent anything."

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