Suffolk panel votes for massive dune project on Fire Island

Looking west from the outerbeach dune lines to the swimming area by the main pavillion on Smith Point County Park, July 21, 2014. (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

A Suffolk legislative committee voted Monday to join New York State and the federal government in constructing 30 miles of protective dunes and restoring beaches between Smith Point County Park and Robert Moses State Park.

The project, developed after superstorm Sandy in 2012, is expected to cost $207 million, according to the agreement with the state passed by the public works committee. That includes $68 million to buy 41 properties on Fire Island, move back six houses and buy easements from hundreds of private property owners, Suffolk Public Works Commissioner Gilbert Anderson said.

The Fire Island Inlet to Moriches Inlet project “is probably the largest beach renourishment plan in the county’s history,” Anderson said. The state and federal governments paid $70 million to fill a breach at Westhampton Beach in the early 1990s.

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“This is restoring the first line of defense against future significant storms,” Anderson said in an interview.

Under the Fire Island proposal, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would pump 7 million cubic yards of sand to create a barrier of dunes and up to 90 feet of additional beach.

The federal government will pay for almost all the work, except for any costs over the assessed value of properties, according to the agreement. In such cases, the state will pick up 70 percent and the county 30 percent of the costs.

Anderson said the county could have to pay a “couple of million dollars” to purchase property above assessed valuation. With the federal government refusing to pay more than the assessment, the project would stall if the county and state did not agree to pay, Anderson said.

Legis. Thomas F. Barraga (R-West Islip) said Suffolk should be careful in paying above assessed valuation. “Every effort has to be made to get value,” Barraga said.

Work is expected to begin in October along the Smith Point portion of the beach, with construction starting sometime this year at Robert Moses, Anderson said.

The plan must be approved by the full Suffolk County Legislature and the state before it can receive final federal approval. The legislature is expected to take up the agreement on July 29.

Officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps did not return requests for comment Monday.

July 22, 2014

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