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Fire Island's federal dune project faces further delays

An aerial view of Davis Park on Fire

An aerial view of Davis Park on Fire Island on Aug. 5, 2013. Credit: Doug Kuntz

Fire Island's $207 million dune project is further behind schedule due to delays in obtaining oceanfront property needed to build and maintain it, officials said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hoped to finish building 13 miles of dunes on the 32-mile-long barrier island in 2016.

But a harsh winter, an overbooked dredger and a short-lived lawsuit over piping plover habitat delayed initial work planned for the island's unpopulated east and west ends. After the plovers finish nesting in September, those sections should be completed this winter, Army Corps spokesman Chris Gardner said.

The island's 17 communities, however, could wait longer.

No dune-building contract likely will be awarded for the stretch from Kismet to Seaview until fall, Gardner said. With a few exceptions, only easements are needed in that area.

They would be easier to secure than home buyouts and relocations in the Ocean Bay Park-to-Davis Park swath. That contract should be awarded early next year, Gardner said.

Suffolk County, which must acquire about 20 houses and more than 400 easements to make room for the dunes, has missed a few targets. In March, it expected to make offers to affected homeowners by June.

While the 105 appraisals from Kismet to Saltaire have been done, offers have only been made on 38 properties in Kismet and Saltaire, according to Gail Lolis, deputy county attorney.

Offers were accepted for 16 properties; eight others were donated. Four offers were rejected and the county awaits responses on 10, she said.

Gardner warned more delays could arise, though what was to be one contract for all of the communities has been split in two to speed the work.

"Should any property owners reject offers put forth by the state/county for easements, buyouts or relocations . . . then those contract award estimates will move back," he said in an email.

Some residents say the easements raise tax and liability concerns, and object to the standard demand for perpetual contracts though the dunes might only last five to 10 years. If Suffolk resorts to eminent domain, that might cause more delays.

Gardner said reviews of home appraisals on the western part of the island should finish by the end of August. His agency is waiting for appraisals for the eastern homes.In July, consultants will start analyzing homes, pools and decks in Fire Island Pines to see if they can be safely moved out of the path of the new dune, officials said. In the next month or two, Suffolk officials expect to receive appraisals for properties in Point O' Woods, Cherry Grove, Water Island and Davis Park.

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