Suffolk plans next week to ask a state court to condemn five Fire Island properties, including a Saltaire home, to help clear the path for a federally funded dune project, officials said Saturday.
"We are now beginning the process of eminent domain on these parcels. There is nothing else that can be done," County Executive Steve Bellone said.
Bellone, answering questions at the Fire Island Association's annual meeting in Ocean Beach, said the county was making "herculean efforts" to minimize effects of the dune project.
Deputy County Attorney Gail Lolis said the five properties are in Kismet and Saltaire. The communities are slated to be the first to get the new dune, after initial construction on the barrier island's unoccupied east and west ends.
The Saltaire home will be condemned if the owner, who has been offered a buyout, doesn't come to terms with the county, Lolis said. Easements are sought for the other parcels.
The 13-mile, $207 million flood control project was designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but Suffolk is responsible for acquiring the land. The Army Corps says a total of 443 easements are needed to build and maintain the dune line.
Twenty-one homes -- almost all in Ocean Bay Park -- are in the path of the dune and are slated for buyouts. Another 26 homes in Davis Park can be relocated, officials said.
Work in the east, around Smith Point County Park, stopped after endangered piping plovers arrived to nest this spring, and Lolis said it should resume in September.
Construction should begin early next year by Robert Moses State Park and from Kismet to Saltaire, she said. Dune work in the more contentious Ocean Bay Park-to-Davis Park section could start in September 2016.
Bellone, who said the dunes will also help reduce flooding on the mainland, stressed that the county wishes to reach voluntary agreements with property owners. But more condemnations might lie ahead.
"We're not going to hold up the project," he said, speaking over a few hecklers.
Some in the audience of about 100 raised concerns about the lack of funding to maintain the new dunes, which might last only five to 10 years.
William Sherman, 69, of Seaview, cited other failed Army Corps projects -- from New Orleans' levees to the Outer Banks dunes in North Carolina -- "that don't exist anymore."
"My question is how long will the project last and where is the proof it will work?" he said. Peter Incorvaia, of Ocean Bay Park, said the planned dune would be so close to his home, it could worsen the risk of flood damage. "A dune in front of my house is a chute in right into my house," he said.
Gerald Stoddard, a former Fire Island Association president, supports the plan. "Many people are convinced they are getting a raw deal, but when they research it deeply, they find the corps is doing the best job they can," he said.