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Long Beach plans bulkheads on barrier island

Homes along Long Beach's north shore are seen

Homes along Long Beach's north shore are seen in this photo from Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Bulkheads near these homes will be built up to provide protection from flooding. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Long Beach is securing the northern shore of its barrier island by adding bulkheads along the coast to protect from regular flooding and future storms.

The city council approved adding a uniform bulkhead system across the northern shore of the island bordering Reynolds Channel. The council approved the plan during its meeting last week as part of a $40 million project to reduce flooding and improve infrastructure in Long Beach. Officials consider the bulkheads as the most important improvement to protect the city, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

The north shore of Long Beach was severely damaged by flooding from superstorm Sandy, and city officials said it floods regularly during heavy rainstorms through the canal streets and along the bay side.

"For far too many decades, our barrier island was left unprotected," Schnirman said. "Inconsistent and incomplete protection allowed routine rain events to cause flooding. The city council decided we can't tolerate that anymore."

The city is using $12,849,184 in state Community Development block-disaster relief grants to repair, replace and elevate retaining walls and bulkheads. They will be built to a uniform height of about 9 feet to keep floodwaters at bay and reduce shore erosion.

The Governor's Office of Storm Recovery approved the application after a fiscal review to fully fund the project. The city did an evaluation in 2013 of north shore bulkheads before submitting an application for state funding.

City officials said the project should have been completed decades ago. Some bulkheads exist near homes in the canal streets, but the city is still largely vulnerable. "Every time we see flooding or have heavy rain, or like recently, a hurricane which spared us, I feel very concerned," city Council President Len Torres said. "I have to say, this call is more toward Gov. [Andrew M.] Cuomo and the red tape, and while we're grateful to be at this point, it's taking a long time and people are very worried. I'm very worried. Again, we're calling on moving this project and process forward, quickly."

City public works teams will also use $17 million for critical infrastructure in the center of the city and another $8.3 million in drainage work with the Office of Emergency Services.

There is no target date to begin while the city awaits state approval for plans and engineering, Schnirman said. "I wish we had started several years ago and this could move faster," he said. "We will move as fast as the state allows us to."

The city is also installing tidal valves on the northern side of the city to redirect water from streets and into the bay, and to stop water from flowing in the reverse direction. Valves have been completed on both eastern and western ends, while more are planned across the north.

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