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DEC now OK with Long Beach's widened beach walkways

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has allowed Long Beach to keep intact three beach walkways that the city widened last summer, a project that was found to violate state environmental law.

The walkways at three West End entrances may remain as constructed if the city replenishes dune sand, replants dune grass and installs fencing, according to the DEC.

Last August, the state agency cited the city for breaking the state Tidal Wetlands Act by excavating vegetated dunes, operating heavy machinery over them and rebuilding the ramps without permits. In December, the agency ordered the city to narrow the 9-foot-wide walkways at Ohio, Nevada and Connecticut avenues to 6 feet and to elevate them by 18 inches to allow the dune room to expand.

But the DEC reconsidered its order after city officials said the 9-foot widths were needed to accommodate heavy foot traffic and to increase beach access for disabled and elderly persons.

The issue was negotiated "100 percent to our satisfaction," said City Manager Charles Theofan.

DEC spokesman Bill Fonda said the city "made a compelling case" for the 9-foot widths and the cost of removing and rebuilding walkways outweighed the benefits of narrowing them.

The city is using sand recovered from private lots nearby for dune replenishment and is to plant grass at the sites this spring and again in the fall.

Snow fences will be placed along the walkways to keep pedestrians off the dunes.

City officials are awaiting DEC approval for construction of another 9-foot wide walkway - 18 inches above the sand between two dunes - at the Illinois Avenue beach entrance.

Barbara Guba, who lives next to that entrance, said the 9-foot width isn't necessary because "we don't have the [amount of] people on the beach."

The city is seeking approval to build two more walkways, Theofan said.

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