Dredging for Fire Island's new dunes -- part of a federal storm-protection project -- is now planned to start in September, about six weeks sooner than expected, officials said Tuesday.

Bids are being sought before plans for the project are finalized with the state, according to Chris Gardner, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman.

He called it "highly unusual" for the Army Corps, which is building the 15-foot-high dunes, to put work out to bid before a state contract is secured, Gardner said.

Bids are now being sought for a section of the dune on the barrier island's east end at Smith Point County Park. The project, which will cost as much as $50 million and pour 2.5 million cubic yards of sand on the beach, should finish in 180 days, the Army Corps said.

Contractors will soon be sought for work on the west side at Robert Moses State Park, officials said. Work in more populated areas will not start until next year as it hinges on buying 41 homes, moving another six, and obtaining 748 easements from property owners.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) have pushed the Army Corps and the Department of Interior, which oversees the Fire Island National Seashore, to expedite the project.

"It is great news that the Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic delays . . . " Schumer said in a statement.

After superstorm Sandy battered Long Island, the rebuilding of Fire Island's dunes became an emergency federal project. That allows work to start before the more ambitious Fire Island to Montauk Point project, or FIMP, which calls for spending hundreds of millions raising some South Shore homes above floodwaters and making other shoreline improvements.

The new dune-building schedule depends on Interior agreeing to the Army Corps' plans in time for it to complete its contract with New York State on Aug. 25. The state then must sign its contract with Suffolk, which is charged with acquiring needed real estate.Gilbert Anderson, Suffolk's commissioner of public works, said the county legislature could approve the plan as soon as July 29.

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