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$150M Long Beach plan takes step forward

"Mount Sandy," spread between Riverside Boulevard and Long Beach Road along Broadway, consists of beach sand that spilled into the city's streets due to superstorm Sandy. It reaches almost as high as electricity poles along the street. (Nov. 21, 2012) Credit: James T. Madore

An ambitious U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to protect Long Beach Island from future storms was moved forward Tuesday in separate unanimous votes by Long Beach and Hempstead Town.

The Army Corps has proposed to build a dune nearly 16 feet above sea level stretching the length of Long Beach's shoreline, rehabilitate the island's protective groins, and raise the island's beloved beach by as much as 5 feet.

The approvals from Hempstead's town board and Long Beach's City Council are two of four the Army Corps needs to start the $150 million project. Nassau County and state approval remain.

"We're ready to move forward and make this project happen," Long Beach Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba said.

Superstorm Sandy devastated Long Beach, causing an estimated $250 million in damage. The beach lost 3 million cubic feet of sand during the storm.

Federal officials have promised 100 percent funding of a storm protection plan for Long Beach, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

The Army Corps plan also would benefit residents of Point Lookout, Lido Beach and East Atlantic Beach, which are on the barrier island but outside the city limits, Schnirman said.

Some residents who spoke at Long Beach's City Council meeting were skeptical of the project. The City Council rejected an Army Corps beach protection plan in 2006 after many residents opposed it.

Some speakers said they feared the dune project would take up too much of the beach. Others said the city's bay side also needs protection. The city is working with federal officials to get money for the Army Corps to study the bay side, officials said.

"Everything I know and love about Long Beach would be radically changed by this plan," said Veronica Gilligan.

Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray called the town's support of the Army Corps project "unwavering." The town board voted 6-0 for the measure. Councilman Gary Hudes was not present at the meeting.

"We believe this will protect the island barrier communities and business districts for the next 50 years," Murray said.

The local approvals are crucial to the process, Army Corps spokesman Chris Gardner said.

"Public support is critical to a project like this," Gardner said.

The new protective dune would peak at 151/2 feet above sea level, 11/2 feet lower than the expected height of Long Beach's rebuilt boardwalk, city officials said. The new boardwalk is planned as part of a different city project.


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