Fire Island's dune project is falling further behind schedule due to harsh weather, an overbooked dredger and delays in obtaining needed properties, officials said.
The 12-mile, $207 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers storm-protection project had been slated for completion this summer.
But work on the first phase at Smith Point County Park didn't start until earlier this winter and will be further slowed by nesting protections for endangered piping plovers, according to Christopher Gardner, an Army Corps spokesman.
The second phase is slated for Robert Moses State Park on the other end of the barrier island, followed by the construction of dunes fronting communities. Work on that final phase had been scheduled to start in December.
There could be further delays if Suffolk County is unable to clear the path. The federal agency has directed the county to buy out 41 homes and obtain more than 400 easements.
"We anticipate that appraisals will be completed and offers made to all by June," Justin Meyers, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone, said in an email last week.
In early December, Suffolk said it expected to issue appraisals by late January.
Gardner said work at Smith Point also was delayed by weather and a lawsuit over piping plover habitat filed by Audubon New York that was later dismissed.
About 1.17 million cubic yards of sand have been poured at Smith Point, and about 100 acres of habitat have been improved for piping plovers, Gardner said.
Because work in the area must halt by April 1, when plovers return to breed, the remaining 1.53 million cubic yards of sand will have to be poured after the birds depart around Labor Day.
Work at Robert Moses State Park isn't expected to start until sometime this fall after a dredger ran late on another project, Gardner said.
Gardner said the Army Corps intends to wait until Suffolk has completed its efforts before building the mid-island dune. So far, the county has secured 38 easements, Meyers said.