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Emergency assistance sought for Long Island shoreline

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other elected officials

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other elected officials on Tuesday implored the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately strengthen vulnerable stretches of Long Island shoreline including Dune Road. Credit: Heather Walsh, Southampton Town Police Department

Federal and local representatives gathered on Dune Road in Hampton Bays Tuesday imploring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately strengthen vulnerable, yet vital, stretches of Long Island shoreline, including near the Shinnecock Commercial Fishing Dock.

The dune east of the Ponquogue Bridge has been washed over several times since an Oct. 10 nor’easter, despite emergency work to protect the barrier island. The beach there is susceptible to erosion as jetties along the nearby Shinnecock Inlet starve the coast of sand that would otherwise be naturally deposited. October storms also dealt damage to the Fire Island shore in Brookhaven and Islip towns, officials said.

Suffolk County began dredging 90,000 cubic yards of sand in early November to rebuild the Hampton Bays dune and protect the road, three nearby restaurants and the fishing dock — which is the second largest in New York State. That project is still underway, yet officials now say the new dune could be wiped out by spring.

“In my opinion, unfortunately, I don’t believe that this project will be sufficient to last the winter,” said Suffolk County Chief Engineer of Public Works William Hillman who toured the area with Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) Tuesday.

Hours later U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and several local town supervisors held a nearby news conference calling on the Army Corps to deliver engineering assistance along Dune Road and Fire Island. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman has said the beach west of the Shinnecock Inlet needs 800,000 cubic yards of sand.

Schumer said the Army Corps can act under Public Law 84-99, which gives the federal agency the ability to step in following emergencies caused by flooding.

“They don’t need new money, and they don’t need new legislation,” Schumer said. “So, we are asking the Army Corps to use the law to fix what is happening.”

Schumer said he had spoken with Col. Thomas Asbery, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers New York District, and agency officials are optimistic they can assist. An Army Corps spokesman said the agency received Schumer’s request and is working under the law to determine the best approach for addressing conditions at the Shinnecock Inlet.

Zeldin said he has also been in contact with the Army Corps and noted in March 2018 he asked the agency for an emergency declaration to expedite dredging of Moriches Inlet. The emergency declaration was approved in April of that year, allowing the Army Corps to coordinate funding and permits.

“They moved mountains quickly and got the approvals faster than anyone could have imagined,” Zeldin said.

Schumer stressed the need to again act quickly, and said he hopes a determination will be made by Thanksgiving.

“Every day we don’t get this done is another day of potential danger,” he said.

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