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Schumer: Use stimulus funds for Fire Island dredging

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should use stimulus money to dredge the Fire Island Inlet, which is rapidly filling with sand, Sen. Charles Schumer said Saturday.

Schumer urged the corps not to wait until it learns if the 2010 federal budget includes money to pay for the dredging and to move ahead using stimulus money that was part of the Obama administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The legislation became law in February and made billions available for infrastructure projects. Unless the inlet is dredged, boaters may not be able to navigate it by October, Schumer said.

Long Island officials, mariners and the Coast Guard said last week that the inlet is filling with sand faster than usual and no federal money has been allocated for dredging it this winter.

He called the project an "emergency navigational issue" that shouldn't be limited by appropriation of construction money for dredging.

The inlet usually is dredged every other year. The last project, in 2007, cost $9.3 million, according to the Operations Support Branch for the Army Corps of Engineers' New York District. However, the corps only has $150,000 to do engineer work, not the money needed to do the dredging.

Reps. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Peter King (R-Seaford) are trying to arrange funding in the House.

"Countless Long Island fishermen and boaters - not to mention first responders - depend on the Fire Island Inlet remaining clear and navigable," Schumer said in a statement Saturday. "The Army corps needs to exhaust all possible funding options to ensure the inlet doesn't dry up and our boaters don't bottom out."

Officials and mariners said the inlet is filling in more rapidly than usual because the permit to complete the work two years ago expired before the company hired by the corps could follow the usual procedure of digging a deposit area to the east of the channel so that the sand that naturally flows along the shoreline would be captured there.

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