Kate Murray urges Long Beach to secure beachfront

Hempstead Town officials gather at the Sandy-damaged beach at Point Lookout Town Park to call on state and federal agencies to complete plans to launch a major storm damage reduction project. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Dec. 11, 2012)

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray Tuesday called out Long Beach officials, saying they need to secure the barrier island's beachfront in the wake of superstorm Sandy -- something those officials say they already are doing.

Murray said the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers need to update their coastal protection action plan for Long Beach Island so work can begin. Murray noted the project stalled after the City of Long Beach rejected it in 2006.

She said that without the project, a large portion of the barrier island -- including the city, Point Lookout, Lido Beach and the Atlantic Beach area -- would again be unprotected from a major storm.

"We're hoping with the sad effects of Sandy for everyone to get on board," Murray said at a news conference at the hard-hit beach at Point Lookout Town Park. "We would encourage them to think of this seriously."

Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said the City Council last week unanimously voted to invite the Army Corps to discuss the project, in the wake of about $250 million in damages from Sandy.

"Now's not the time to reflect on why past administrations failed to protect the city," he said. "This administration recognizes the clear threat posed by storms . . . We also must recognize that large projects like this take several years to complete, and we must take interim measures to protect the city on the beach and the bay side."

The multiagency project, developed in 1996, includes replenishing sand, constructing and repairing stone groins and building up dunes. The project was price-tagged at nearly $100 million in 2006, the majority to be covered by the federal government and the state, and smaller portions by Nassau County, Long Beach and Hempstead Town.

"We look forward to work with them in the future," Army Corps spokesman Ken Wells said. "We have to have those discussions and talks to figure out what the next steps are."

The town said it continues to take steps to restore and protect its coastline from surging Atlantic Ocean seawater, including dredging in Jones Inlet, beach grass planting, building stone bulkheads, snow fencing and dune building. The system of dunes built by the town along Point Lookout's eastern shore mitigated Sandy-related damage, Murray said.

Lido and Point Lookout civic leaders said flooding in those communities came via Long Beach streets, not directly from the ocean.

"We are just one storm away from devastation," Murray said. "Our town has done its part, but we need a more substantial and effective long-term approach to storm damage reduction."

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