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Army Corps must fund back bays project, Schumer says

Sen. Chuck Schumer, second from left, is joined

Sen. Chuck Schumer, second from left, is joined by, from left, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino, Freeport Deputy Mayor Jorge A. Martinez and Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman during a news conference announcing an effort to push the Army Corps of Engineers to fund $7 million for a study to examine and prioritize projects to harden shorelines along Freeport, Long Beach, Island Park, Oceanside, Baldwin and the Five Towns. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Standing less than a block from storm-flooded streets near Freeport’s Nautical Mile, Sen. Chuck Schumer on Monday pushed the Army Corps of Engineers to fund a study looking at ways to harden coastal areas of Nassau County’s back bays.

The Army Corps has about $7 million to study flood and storm damage reduction projects and Schumer wants a Nassau County study to top the list of priorities, after losing out last year.

“We all know the damage Sandy caused,” Schumer said. “It was devastating.”

Aides say a study examining Long Beach, Oceanside, Freeport, the Five Towns area and other back bay coastal communities to come up with resiliency projects would cost between $250,000 to $500,000 and is the first step in securing future federal funding.

The Army Corps’ North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study, which inventoried coastal needs, identifies the area as vulnerable.

“We need to make sure that we are better protected when, God forbid, the next Sandy occurs,” Schumer said. “Whether it’s tidal gates, sea walls or dunes, we don’t know the exact right thing to do, but we know we have to do something, and we’ve got to do it soon.”

The Army Corps’ plan for projects and studies to get funding is expected to be released Tuesday and the Nassau back bays proposal is under consideration, Paul Tumminello, the Corps’ chief of civil works for the New York region, said in a statement Monday evening.

If funded, “the goal of the study will be to develop feasibility alternatives for reducing the risk of flooding to coastal Nassau County,” he said.

When superstorm Sandy struck in October 2012, the storm surge inundated coastal communities, flooded homes, knocked out power, downed trees and damaged thousands of buildings. An Army Corps study would look at regional solutions to halt the kind of devastating flooding that occurred, as well as give local communities ideas of what can also be done to protect the shoreline, said Freeport Village Deputy Mayor Jorge A. Martinez.

Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman echoed those sentiments.

“On a day like today, when everybody is worried about snow, we’re worried about flooding,” Schnirman said. “We’re all in it together. We all need to take a comprehensive regional approach.”

Monday’s winter storm brought with it coastal flood warnings and advisories. Inundated streets and lots were seen in Island Park, Freeport, East Rockaway and elsewhere. Schumer said the Army Corps study, while focusing on large-scale heavy flooding, also would help some communities that experience more chronic flooding during lesser weather events than Sandy.

“Once we get that done it will prevent the smaller flooding as well,” Schumer said. “I don’t think it makes sense to do a whole project on the smaller flooding and then when [another] Sandy comes it gets devastated like it did last time. . . . We don’t want to do things willy nilly. We don’t want to have Five Towns doing one thing and Wantagh doing another thing and Oceanside doing a third thing. We want to have a comprehensive plan.”

If the Army Corps funding is approved, work on the study could begin within weeks and should be finished in time to submit projects for congressional funding next year.

“This can never happen again,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino said. “This important study, when it is funded and when it is completed, will be the first step toward targeting the infrastructure that we need to make sure that when and if we get another storm like hurricane Sandy . . . we’d be ready for it.”


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