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Fire Island to Montauk Point plan to protect South Shore moves forward

Davis Park, Fire Island. This photo looks east

Davis Park, Fire Island. This photo looks east along the shore. (Aug. 5, 2013) Credit: Doug Kuntz

A long-studied plan to protect Fire Island and the South Shore from powerful storms advanced Tuesday as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone vowed to work together to secure $700 million in federal funding.

The Fire Island to Montauk Point project is intended to repair damage caused by superstorm Sandy and safeguard an 83-mile stretch of coastline for decades to come.

Dunes would be rebuilt and strengthened, roads and houses in the most flood-prone areas would be elevated, and wetlands would be created in some areas as protective buffers.

"We need to shore up our coastal defenses against future storms," Cuomo said in a statement. "The plan to rebuild and fortify the south shore of Long Island is a critical component of our protection plan."

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Park Service said they had largely reached agreement on the plan a couple of years ago.

But Sandy forced some revisions. Now, the two federal agencies are working out the final details, including scheduling issues, so that dredging can begin as soon as December, said Chris Soller, Fire Island National Seashore superintendent.

Bellone said the county would serve as a local partner in what he termed a "collaborative process."

Bellone spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter noted that the project requires "buy-in and agreement at both the county and municipal level, not to mention the various agencies of state and federal government who have varying perspectives on the project."

Preliminary plans call for spending $500 million on a limited number of mainland and Fire Island home buyouts, and raising vulnerable roads and homes on the South Shore. Another $140 million would go toward replenishing beaches and building dunes, and roughly $60 million would be used to re-create wetlands.

Funding for the project would come out of the almost $51 billion federal Sandy aid bill, officials said.

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