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Long Beach to talk to Army Corps on storm project

Long Beach will invite the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers back to the city to work toward a storm damage reduction project -- a plan the city backed away from in 2006.

The City Council's unanimous vote, which came on Tuesday night and in the wake of about $250 million in damages due to superstorm Sandy, restarts the process of shoring up the city's beachfront, city officials said.

The work is expected to include the renourishment and elevation of the beach, which lost more than 3 million cubic feet of sand during the storm, as well as the construction of protective sand berm.

The City Council shot down a similar plan -- which would have cost more than $98.5 million to construct -- in 2006, when numerous residents opposed the project. City officials said the new project would likely cost much more.

But Sandy's devastation taught the city a lesson about its vulnerability, which is greater than ever now that high tide is creeping just 25 feet from the boardwalk due to beach erosion, officials said.

"I think we agree that it's not just a good idea," said Councilman Mike Fagen. "It's necessary."

City Council members were quick to remind the public that Tuesday's vote merely restarts the conversation with the Army Corp, and doesn't leave the city with any kind of financial commitment.

But many residents once again told the council that they will keep a close eye on the restoration project -- and its price tag. Several residents said they believed the Army Corp was attempting to push through the project in 2006.

"I'm very skeptical of any plan that isn't thoroughly vetted," said resident John Ashmead.

Resident Roy Lester, whose home in the Canals neighborhood was heavily damaged, said the city's mitigation concerns stretch beyond the beachfront.

"We're going to have to address the bay," Lester said.

The Army Corp requested the City Council consider coming back to the table, Long Beach officials said. The process will unfold slowly, and a new plan won't be drawn up until next year, officials said.

"We certainly don't want the take it or leave it approach," said Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba. "We are going to have some back and forth with the Army Corp, absolutely."

The City Council also voted to establish the City of Long Beach Relief Fund.

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