The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declared its shoreline protection project from Long Beach to Point Lookout completed, but elected officials said work isn’t finished and are worried that newly built jetties could deteriorate and fall into the ocean.
Army Corps officials said all coastal storm protection features are in place and $100 million under budget prior to the June 1 start of hurricane season. The original projected cost was $230 million. Crews have spent the past three years transforming the shoreline by building dunes in front of the boardwalk, adding sand to the beach, building four new jetties and rehabilitating 18 rocky jetties or groins, designed to collect sand and prevent erosion.
Federal officials said the project is decades in the making, but the fixes became more urgent after superstorm Sandy. The upgrades provide the first defense from hurricanes and storms off the Atlantic Ocean after 17-foot waves met the back bays and flooded most of Long Beach and the barrier island during Sandy, engineers say.
State and city officials contend that it's not time to celebrate.
“This is certainly a game-changing and important project for the area, but Champagne corks should not be popped yet because it’s not complete,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said.
Kaminsky said it’s important for the project to be finished and returned to local control so communities can apply for federal relief in case of another storm.
Long Beach hired a Florida coastal engineering firm that found the jetties and groins were not designed properly. The end of the groins were not built with any foundation and were starting to separate, city Public Works Director John Mirando said.
“These stones are 15,000 to 30,000 pounds. If you stand in the water and let the tide come in, you sink into the sand,” he said. “We’re afraid eventually these boulders will fall off and sink into the ocean.”
Army Corps officials said the groins “are rock rubble structures that are functioning as designed.”
Long Beach officials are also seeking to add a buoy system from Army Corps officials that would warn swimmers of stones not visible during high tide.
"The residents of this community are now safer from the impacts of violent storms and coastal flooding. We would like to thank our partners at the local, state, and federal levels, who worked with us to ensure this important work was completed,” said Thomas D. Asbery, the Army Corps New York District commander .
Long Beach and state officials said they would not take responsibility for the project until concerns with the newly built jetties are addressed. The Army Corps will conduct annual inspections and maintenance before they re-evaluate the jetties in five years.
“When concerns about the quality of the rehabilitated groins were brought to my attention by the City of Long Beach, I told the Army Corps that we must do everything we can to ensure that this vital coastal resiliency project is operating as intended,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
The Army Corps is still completing walkovers and ramps from the boardwalk over the dunes. All but three of the ramps are expected to be finished by Memorial Day. Crossovers at Edwards, Grand and Lindell boulevards are expected to be finished by the first week of July.
Army Corps shoreline protection project:
Stone used: 284,000 tons
Sand on beach and dunes: 3.2 million cubic yards
Beach added from shoreline: 150 feet