Erosion can be seen on the ocean side of the...

Erosion can be seen on the ocean side of the beach at Davis Park on Fire Island on Oct 3. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The Army Corps of Engineers has denied a request from the state's U.S. Senate delegation to replenish the beaches at Fire Island, which have been pummeled by a series of recent storms, creating some of its worst erosion in years.

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wrote to Corps leadership, arguing that “emergency repair is particularly needed in the eastern Fire Island communities where the beachfront has diminished.”

Fire Island homeowners, community leaders and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine have echoed calls for emergency sand replenishment in recent weeks, framing the erosion as a threat to not only Fire Island, but to the mainland as the barrier beach serves as a buffer when storms strike the area.

But Corps officials told Newsday on Tuesday that the damage in areas such as Davis Park and Fire Island Pines was not severe enough to qualify for immediate repairs under existing guidelines.

"Based on an analysis of water levels, waves and duration, the recent storms impacting areas of Fire Island do not meet the minimum eligibility requirements to qualify for financial support," Corps spokesman James D’Ambrosio said.

To qualify for emergency repairs, the coastline must be substantially eroded and damaged by a Category 3 hurricane or higher, with sustained winds of between 110 and 129 mph that damage homes, uproot trees and knock out electricity or water sources for several days or weeks, D’Ambrosio said.

The recent "ordinary storms" that pounded Fire Island, including eating away at least 50 feet of beach at Davis Park, do not qualify for federal aid, he said.

Schumer disputed the Corps' findings.

“The pictures prove the case: Fire Island has been hit hard by storm after storm, and in many spots erosion is getting much worse," he said. "That is why I first sounded the alarm, asking the Army Corps to conduct emergency repair of dune and beaches to protect the coastal communities, homeowners and keep people safe. I will continue to push the Corps to make needed repairs ASAP and to utilize the resources I have already secured for their agency to get this job done.” 

Gillibrand said that since Fire Island lacks paved roads, beaches along the South Shore connect residents to essential services. 

"Fire Island’s eroded beaches have suffered a series of violent storms, and without emergency efforts to rebuild them, EMTs, firefighters, police and other first responders won’t have reliable pathways needed to serve nearly 5,000 homes in the case of an emergency," Gillibrand said.

Since 2019, more than 2.3 million cubic yards of sand have been deposited by the Corps on the eroded Fire Island shorelines of Davis Park, Fire Island Pines, Cherry Grove, Point O’ Woods, Water Island and Ocean Bay Park as part of the $2.1 billion Fire Island to Montauk Point project.

The Corps said it will be taking beach-profile surveys later this month between Ocean Bay Park and Davis Park to determine if the current conditions qualify for "periodic beach replenishment" under the Fire Island to Montauk Point project.

In 2024 and 2025, the Corps plans to "deposit significant quantities of sand" on Long Island’s South Shore, from Cupsogue to Westhampton Beach, and in downtown Montauk, D’Ambrosio said.

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