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Long Beach officials look for federal funds to bolster flood infrastructure

Long Beach city officials are banking on $25 million in federal funds to build city infrastructure to ward off storm waters.

After facing heavy rains this week, the city's streets once again were inundated at high tide. City officials said federal funding is vital to improving infrastructure to stop floodwaters and rebuild after superstorm Sandy.

"We all cringe when it rains. It's a stark reminder of our vulnerabilities and reminder of where we are," City Manager Jack Schnirman said. "Until we see projects moving forward and funding come to fruition, we remain vulnerable. There is still much to be done and part of the challenge of recovery."

Long Beach is one of 21 communities on Long Island that is to receive $25 million in federal funding for storm relief after Sandy, distributed through the New York governor's storm relief program, New York Rising. City officials did not have a timetable for when the funding might be disbursed.

Monday's storm brought heavy rain at the same time as high tide in Long Beach, which caused water to overflow in the city's drainage system until the tide lowered, Long Beach Public Works Commissioner James LaCarrubba said.

City workers inspected storm drains this week to clear debris and sand, and LaCarrubba said few drains were clogged and were working well, based on how quickly the water dissipated after high tide.

"As time has gone on, weather events have been more severe and rain storms are not what they used to be," LaCarrubba said. "The dynamic has changed and our storm system was not built to handle this type of weather."

The city needs to implement different methods to handle storm water and adapt for climate change, LaCarrubba said.

A Long Beach committee estimated the city needs $8.3 million in storm infrastructure improvements for five chronic flooding areas in the city, LaCarrubba said.

Those improvements could include new drainage systems and water pumps to remove storm waters or the creation of a water retention system to hold more water when it cannot be properly drained.

The city is also waiting on a separate $13 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant for critical infrastructure to improve and replace bulkheads. The improvements would protect a sewage treatment and water plant in the North Park area. City planners are currently in the design phase for these improvements.

"This is a very fragile community. We had a severe event less than two years ago and when people see water in the street, they feel nervous," LaCarrubba said. "In order to stop these events from happening and get a sense of comfort, it's critically important to start moving these projects forward."


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