Agreements and State Financing Clears Way for Fire Island Protective Dune Restoration Project to Begin in September
Albany, NY - August 11, 2014 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has signed legal agreements with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Suffolk County, and authorized $68 million in State financing, as part of a three-phase $207 million coastal storm risk reduction project along Suffolk County’s Atlantic Ocean Coast. The project, commonly known as Fire Island Inlet to Moriches Inlet (FIMI), will be undertaken in conjunction with the Army Corps and Suffolk County and is set to start in September.
“Strengthening our shore lines is one of the best things we can do to protect low-lying areas that are vulnerable to storm surges like we saw in Superstorm Sandy,” Governor Cuomo said. “Thanks to the State’s long-standing relationship with the Army Corps and the leadership of Suffolk County, this extensive coastal project is now in full motion and on track to begin next month. This builds on our continued mitigation efforts, like raising thousands of homes and reinforcing the grid, so that New York’s families and businesses will be prepared for whatever the future presents.”
“This is a significant, much-needed project that will help protect the south shore of Long Island from future storms and sea level rise in an environmentally sensitive manner,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “We appreciate the vision and hard work of Governor Cuomo, as well as our federal and local partners to develop, plan, and now implement the project. We will assist the Army Corps in every way possible to complete this project as quickly as possible.”
DEC, the Army Corps and Suffolk County have signed legal agreements for this project, which will include the construction of dunes and beaches in the 19-mile stretch between Fire Island Inlet and Moriches Inlet. Suffolk County will employ the State funding announced today to acquire 41 at-risk privately-owned parcels and obtain more than 400 permanent easements on Fire Island to facilitate the placement of protective dunes. The State funding announced today will ultimately be reimbursed by the federal government under the Disaster Relief Appropriation Act of 2013.
Work on the first phase of the FIMI project will begin this fall at Smith Point County Park. The Army Corps plans to award the construction contract for the work in September, with procurement efforts already underway. A second construction contract will be awarded later this year for work in Robert Moses State Park and the Fire Island Lighthouse tract. The third phase, which includes 17 Fire Island communities, will begin after the necessary real estate access has been obtained. The FIMI project completion is targeted for late 2016.
Congressman Tim Bishop said, “I am pleased that New York State has finalized a critical component of the Fire Island to Moriches Inlet project. I have remained committed to working with all of the federal, State, and local stakeholders to ensure this priority project moves forward to provide communities in this area critical coastal protection. This is a positive step towards that objective.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “This is a critical step forward in our efforts to rebuild Suffolk County’s coastline stronger. We are grateful to leaders like Governor Cuomo for moving this quickly through the State approval process and Congressman Bishop for his insistence that work begin this fall.”
Post-Sandy assessments of Fire Island’s dunes indicate that, on average, the dune structure lost 55 percent of its pre-storm volume, or roughly 4.5 million cubic yards of sand. Approximately 7 million cubic yards of sand will be used for the FIMI coastal hazard reduction project. By way of comparison, a large dump truck carries roughly 20 cubic yards of sand.
FIMI is a subset of the larger “Fire Island to Montauk Point” (FIMP) project that will also involve elevating or raising approximately 4,500 high-risk structures on Suffolk County’s mainland to limit the damage from future storm inundations, as well as a series of natural infrastructure initiatives in the bays to further dampen storm surge and associated wave action while improving habitat. New York has also asked the Army Corps to consider extending sewer service to all elevated structures as part of FIMP to assist in reducing nitrogen pollution to the bays, thereby protecting and enhancing protective coastal marshlands.
The FIMI and FIMP project elements, in conjunction with other initiatives such as the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, will ultimately create “multiple barriers” that reduce the risk of storm surge to both Fire Island and the mainland, better protecting area homes, businesses and infrastructure. The work will help reduce the risk of over-washes and out-right breaches on Fire Island. In addition, the project will enhance Piping Plover habitat in three overwash areas in Smith Point County Park, and will also create new prime plover nesting and foraging habitat in the vicinity of Great Gunn Beach. When the project is completed, there will be more prime Piping Plover habitat in this area than existed prior to Superstorm Sandy.
In July 2014, Governor Cuomo expanded the NY Rising Program to help 6,575 homeowners impacted by extreme weather pursue home elevations. Up to $300 million has been made available through the State’s NY Rising Housing Recovery Program to support the additional elevations, open to those who experienced damage to their homes as a result of Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee. The Optional Home Elevation and Mitigation Initiative is being offered in addition to other housing recovery assistance that has been made available through NY Rising.