Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Alex Romero speaks during a...

Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Alex Romero speaks during a news conference Friday to kick off the Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) Project starting in late December that will reduce erosion along miles of coastline on the South Shore. Credit: Barry Sloan

Under a shining sun, officials gathered Friday at the Fire Island Lighthouse ahead of scheduled work on the $1.7 billion coastal storm risk management project — also known as FIMP (Fire Island to Montauk Point) — that will reduce flood risk along 83 miles of shoreline eroded by decades of storms.

After more than 60 years of talks and plans to protect Long Island’s coasts, officials celebrated the work that is to begin when officials break ground later this month.

The barrier island serves as Long Island’s first defense against severe weather. The project shows "the commitment the federal government has made to the people on Long Island following Superstorm Sandy," said Col. Matthew Luzzatto, New York District commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"It is the last piece of the puzzle for the protection of the South Shore of Long Island," Luzzatto told Newsday on Friday. "When there’s a common cause and common needs needing to be met, people can come together and accomplish those things."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone described the project as "incredible and game-changing."

"This means that the tens of thousands of homes located along the South Shore, that the protection that this barrier island provides will be there for decades and decades to come," he said.

The first construction contract will be for dredging the Fire Island Inlet and placing sand near Gilgo Beach in Babylon Town and Robert Moses State Park on Fire Island. The work is expected to be completed in March. In July, the Army Corps plans to begin bypassing at the Moriches and Shinnecock inlets, a process that moves sand from the updrift to the downdrift side of the inlet.

Project plans include restoring and protecting coasts, evaluating approximately 4,400 homes and structures over the next five years to determine whether they need to be elevated or floodproofed, rebuilding dunes and a new response plan for breaches after severe storms and tidal surges. Officials have called the project "critical" in safeguarding Long Island’s environment.

The plan includes a feeder beach along 6,000 feet of shoreline in Montauk to be replenished every four years for 30 years. Over the next 50 years, an estimated 4.2 million cubic yards of sediment will be placed along the shoreline.

The civil works project is funded by the federal government through a law passed in December 2020 and previously earmarked by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 after Superstorm Sandy. The October 2012 storm caused $65 billion in damage across the region.

It has taken decades for the project to come to life. The first version of the plan was authorized in 1960, but only partially built. Plans were revisited in 1980, paused and then resumed in 1994. Assistant Secretary of the Army R.D. James approved the initiative in September 2020.

With Vera Chinese and Carl MacGowan

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