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Long Beach dune project reaches long-awaited pact

The city of Long Beach is seen in

The city of Long Beach is seen in this aerial photo from April 19, 2015. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

The Long Beach City Council has signed a landmark agreement with New York State and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a $200 million dune and storm protection project facing the Atlantic Ocean to protect the city from storms and hurricanes.

The state's Department of Environmental Conservation and the city cleared plans late last week after years of delays to replenish the sand on the beach washed away by superstorm Sandy and secure jetties and dunes to protect Long Beach from violent waves and floods.

"We are at an extremely exciting time in the city's history," City Council president Len Torres said Friday, when the deal was announced. "The Army Corps of Engineers project is something this City Council demanded, and we are thrilled to see this critically important, long-overdue project finally moving forward -- as we continue rebuilding a stronger, smarter, and safer Long Beach."

The City Council proposed the Army Corps improvements and storm protection in March 2012, seven months before the storm walloped the 6-mile barrier island, including Lido Beach, Point Lookout and Atlantic Beach. Plans had been dormant for 30 years since the first proposal in 1986.

With state approval, the completely federally funded project could begin early next year and last about four years. About $85 million of the funds will be devoted to Long Beach at the center of the island's most densely populated part.

It was reviewed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a biological study, Long Beach Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba said.

He said the Army Corps can solicit bids for the first phase of work, which will focus on jetty and beach groin rehabilitation to absorb waves, followed by bringing more sand onto the beach.

Residents will see a wider beach to the east and west and a higher beach toward the middle of the city.

The city built a concrete retaining wall under the reinforced boardwalk and has started reconstruction on its own dunes and walkovers rebuilt on the beach.

A $40 million bulkhead and drainage project is already underway to protect the city's northern bayfront.

"The retaining wall serves as mitigation for the boardwalk, but it's not mitigation for the city. This storm damage reduction project mitigates storm damage for everything behind it and lessens any potential damage a storm can bring," LaCarrubba said.

The project has been beset for decades by bureaucratic roadblocks and, most recently, a federal environmental study that halted work on another Army Crops project on Fire Island, when dune work threatened the piping plover habitat.

City officials credited the state and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for seeking the project's approval. Schumer said it was a flood protection project included under the $60 billion Sandy supplemental bill.

"This is an important milestone that will finally bring sorely needed protections to Long Beach to guard against future storms," Schumer said in a statement.

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