Sen. Charles Schumer has urged U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to approve Suffolk County's application seeking $25 million in federal funds to finance a Mastic and Shirley flood-protection project.
Vilsack told Schumer he would take a close look at the application, although he didn't commit to funding it.
The project would allow Suffolk to acquire 60 parcels of private land, with the consent of property owners, in vulnerable, flood-prone Mastic and Shirley areas devastated by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and superstorm Sandy in 2012. The land would then be returned to its natural state.
The project would be funded through the $124 million Sandy Emergency Watershed Protection Program, which Schumer helped author. That federal money is part of the $60 billion Sandy relief bill for flood plain easement projects.
"The Mastic-Shirley peninsula was hit hard by Sandy and Irene with widespread flooding throughout the area, and it's clear that we must move forward with critical resiliency projects to help prevent this from happening in the future," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "I am urging the USDA to provide funds for the Mastic-Shirley flood protection project so that Suffolk County can work with willing homeowners to establish flood protection buffers."
Mastic and Shirley's peninsula is situated between the Great South Bay and Moriches Bay. Over the years, Suffolk County has acquired 60 acres in the area; New York State owns 90 acres and Brookhaven Town owns nearly 20 acres.
"These funds improve resiliency by preserving and enhancing vulnerable wetland habitat which serves as a critical natural defense against storm surge," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement.