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Schumer: Speed up Fire Island-to-Montauk beach protection plans

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the Army

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the Army Corps of Engineers to speed up phase two of the Fire Island to Montauk Point project to provide protections against heavier storms in the near future.  Credit: Morgan Campbell

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), on Long Island Thursday, called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite work to protect beaches off Fire Island from future storms.

Schumer made the appeal on Overlook Beach in Babylon, with Babylon Supervisor Richard Schaffer and Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter, hours after the remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded parts of Long Island and the metropolitan region.

"We need this agenda moved up quicker. We have to play catch-up with Mother Nature," Schumer said. "When you have, in two weeks, record amounts of rainfall to cause the amount of trouble and chaos, you know something is different and we need to help people."

The first phase of the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study is planned to start in November with a $47 million federally funded project to dredge Fire Island Inlet, with sand restoration at Gilgo Beach and Robert Moses State Park to reduce erosion, maintain dunes and fortify beaches. Babylon has pledged $483,000 for 42,000 cubic yards of sand at Overlook Beach. The first phase is set to be completed in March.

Phase two of the project calls for opening contracts for dredging Moriches Inlet and Shinnecock Inlet in July, but Schumer said work needs to happen faster and ahead of next year’s hurricane season.

"Amidst the torrents of rain that hit Long Island from the past two hurricanes, one thing is clear, the project is needed to mitigate coastal storm risk," Schumer said, referring also to Henri, which pummeled Long Island as a tropical storm less than two weeks ago.

Bids were opened in early August to dredge 83 miles of Long Island coastline, Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) said, part of the project's first phase. The Illinois cutter dredge will arrive in November.

The second phase will pump sand and shoal from the navigation channel to the west, including adding sand to Smith Point County Park, Cupsogue County Beach and Ponquogue Beach.

That phase also will add coastal features to the bayside such as aquatic vegetation, and reduce the risk of flooding on the bay.

Construction on the second phase could start in the fall of 2022, but Schumer is pressuring the Army Corps to move up its work through the budget process and federal contracting.

"The hurricane threat is a light blinking red. The feds need to greenlight the fast track for phase two," Schumer said.

Carpenter and Schaffer said the dredging projects were 45 years in the making to protect Fire Island.

"We need to pay attention to the barrier [island], we have to protect the integrity of the barrier because it protects us," Carpenter said.

The project has a total of 11 phases that are fully federally funded for it to be completed. The project includes beach, dune and berm construction, as well as breach response plans on barrier islands, inlet management, groin and jetty modifications, and coastal features.

It was funded through the $60 million Superstorm Sandy relief bill.

Schumer said the new infrastructure bill will provide extra money for flood-resilient features to protect the region from future storms. He said the bill also reduces carbon emissions and greenhouse gases by 2030.

"Resilient means when there’s a big storm, they survive," Schumer said. "Climate change has been with us for a long time. If you need convincing, just look at the last two weeks' storms."

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