Long Beach city officials and state representatives have a message for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Speed it up.
They are asking the federal agency to adjust its work schedule on a shoreline protection project so that it won’t interfere with the summer beach season.
City officials said they worry that the work constructing groins and dunes will drive away beachgoers who don’t want to relax with heavy equipment nearby and backhoes hauling several-ton stones across the sand.
The officials representing communities on the Long Beach barrier island requested that Army Corps crews confine work to spring or fall.
City and state officials sent a letter to the agency last month asking for the change. It was signed by Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman, state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Assemb. Melissa Miller (R-Atlantic Beach) and Nassau County Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach).
“We represent every level of government that has jurisdiction over the City of Long Beach and present to you a bipartisan, unified message that the partial closure of beaches during summer months cannot be permitted,” the letter states.
The letter proposes that the Corps double the size of the work crews during the spring and fall, which would allow them to stay on schedule but not disrupt the summer beach season.
The $230 million federally funded beach protection project is adding dunes across seven miles of coastline from Jones Inlet in Point Lookout to Rockaway Inlet, west of Atlantic Beach.
The current schedule had the Long Beach section of the project slated for placing stone in March and beginning work in June. The total project is set to be completed by September 2018.
Long Beach officials said the work schedule would close up to 2,000 feet of the popular beachfront during the peak summer season when construction of groins and jetties is underway. Work on each groin — structures built perpendicular to the shore to trap sand and stabilize a beach — would require closing 1,000 feet of beach to the east and west as it’s being constructed and a storage area of 150 feet by 200 feet to store stones.
Elected officials said the movement of heavy machinery through public beaches creates a public safety concern, endangering children and beachgoers during crowded periods.
“We want to see this project move forward to protect our city, but we also need to protect our residents’ safety and minimize interruptions for beach season,” Schnirman said.
The sale of beach passes — $15 for daily visitors last year — brought $3.8 million to the city, about $1 million of which covered operation costs for the beach, officials have said.
“Long Beach is famous for its beaches and it is a key reason why many people choose to live and visit there,” the letter states, noting that beach closures during the peak summer season would be “harming Long Beach’s vital summer economy and disturbing local residents.”
Work began in July as part of a decades-long plan to protect the barrier island’s oceanfront. Large waves and storm surge during superstorm Sandy in 2012 destroyed the city’s original boardwalk and flooded most of the city.
Corps engineers have so far reinforced some groins in Point Lookout and completed construction of a 600-foot parapet wall there.
“It is also a priority for us to deliver this project on time and in a cost effective manner to provide additional coastal storm risk reduction measures to the community of Long Beach,” Army Corps officials said in a written statement. “This project was designated as a year-round project from its inception. We are confident that all parties concerned will come to a consensus on this issue.”
Army Corps officials said talks about the work schedule would continue with elected officials, but the project currently was proceeding on time.