U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand today called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) to combine Army Corps “operations and maintenance funding” with federal disaster aid for the dredging of Fire Island Inlet and beach replenishment at Robert Moses and Fire Island Beaches. Fire Island Inlet is currently at dangerously low water depths – as low as 4 feet at high tide and 1 foot at low tide. Dredging is the only option for the inlet and would ensure that Fire Island Inlet remains navigable. Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Acting Chief of Engineers Major General Merdith W.B. Temple, asking them to combine nearly $23 million in long overdue FEMA replenishment projects for Fire Island and Robert Moses beaches with federal Army Corps “operations and maintenance funding” from the new federal appropriations bill, to jump-start a dredging project of the federal navigation channel. Schumer and Gillibrand said that if federal funding is approved and allocated, it could be leveraged with $7 million of New York Works funding recently designated for Fire Island Inlet.
“We need to dredge this Fire Island Inlet ASAP. With water depths as shallow as one foot, it is downright dangerous for federal agencies to not step in and help solve this problem,” said Schumer. “The inlet’s incredibly shallow depths not only prevents the Coast Guard from effectively protecting our waterways but also hurts our commercial and recreational fishermen. Working with local and state entities, I expect our federal agencies to work together and pool their resources to fix big problems like this so the channel remains open for first responders, fishermen and family boaters.”
“With severely low water depths at Fire Island Inlet affecting the safety of thousands of Long Island boaters, it is clear that the inlet is in need of dredging, ” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must immediately pool federal and local resources to fix this urgent problem before the situation worsens.”
The Army Corps of Engineers have estimated to the Senators’ offices that approximately $20 to $25 million is required to commence a basic dredging project. New York State Office of Emergency Management (NYSOEM) has submitted 15 separate funding requests to FEMA that would result in $20.7 million federal dollars to pay for the sand replenishment of severely eroded Fire Island beaches. NYSOEM has also submitted approximately $2.7 million in work sheets for Robert Moses beach projects. These “project worksheets” have been stuck in limbo since the Presidential Disaster Declarations issued for storms in 2009 and 2010. Since the sand for the beach replenishment projects would come from the built-up sediment in the Inlet, Schumer and Gillibrand’s plan would leverage this long overdue funding in the following ways:
- First, FEMA would approve over a dozen requests for approximately $23 million. When combined with the existing $7 million in New York Works funding, this could bring the total dollar amount for the project to over $30 million.
- Second, the Army Corps of Engineers Acting Chief would direct the needed remaining dollars to commence a project from the recently approved “Continuing Resolution” appropriations bill passed by Congress last month. Under the Continuing Resolution, the Corps’ has a 6-month national allocation of approximately one billion dollars in “operations and maintenance funding.” Schumer and Gillibrand would have additional funding from this pot be directed to the New York District for the Corps under this dredging proposal. The Senators’ cited the Moriches Inlet/Cupsogue Beach project as precedent for this type of inter-agency cooperation.
Under this plan, FEMA and New York State would fund the Corps’ with their respective allocations to complete the dredging and replenishment work.
Fire Island Inlet is located on the South Shore of Long Island in Suffolk County, passing through Robert Moses State Park, and is the only major artery between the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This inlet is primarily used by commercial and recreational fisherman and the USCG Fire Island Station is located just inside the inlet. Captree State Park, north of the inlet, is primarily used by fishing and dive boats.
USCG issued a warning in mid-September to mariners who utilize the Fire Island Inlet and advised that they seek alternate routes. The advisory described the water depths of the Fire Island Inlet to be as low as 4 feet at high tide and less than 1 foot at low tide. Due to the current situation, USCG stated that it will no longer allow its 47-foot rescue boat to use the inlet for fear of running aground.
Robert Moses State Park, located adjacent to the Fire Island Inlet, has a growing problem of beach erosion and a section of the beach’s “Field 5” parking lot was recently closed off to the public. Over the last two years, New York State Park officials have deposited thousands of cubic yards of new sand onto the beach for replenishment but the stockpile has run out. The beach erosion is in such bad shape that during high tide a large portion of the beach is submerged and visitors have little room to lay by the water. Schumer and Gillibrand are asking that ACOE and FEMA use sand from their proposed Fire Island Inlet dredging project to replenish Robert Moses State Park.
In 2008, ACOE dredged 555,000 cubic years of sand out of the Fire Island inlet. The next dredging project is not scheduled for 2014.
Schumer and Gillibrand today called on FEMA and ACOE to plan and commence an emergency dredging project of the Fire Island Inlet. They pointed to FEMA’s beach re-nourishment projects, specifically for the adjacent and eroded Robert Moses beach. Schumer made the case that these projects could be combined with existing ACOE and New York State funding to jump-start the Fire Island Inlet dredging project and that FEMA and ACOE, in partnership with New York State, should work expeditiously to review available funding and pool all resources to perform the dredging. Schumer and Gillibrand noted that an open inlet serves to mitigate potential coastal flood events during major storm events and the Fire Island Inlet dredging project should be one of FEMA and ACOE’s top priorities so that USCG can continue to patrol and commercial and recreational boaters can continue to utilize the waterway.
Administrator William Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street SW
Washington, DC 20472
The Honorable Major General Merdith W.B. Temple
Acting Chief of Engineers
US Army Corps of Engineers
2600 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310
Dear Administrator Fugate and Major General Merdith W.B. Temple:
We write to you today regarding the urgent need for dredging at Fire Island Inlet in Long Island, New York. Similar to the 2008 Moriches Inlet dredging project on Long Island, we request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) leverage Army Corps Operations and Maintenance funding and federal disaster aid for beach replenishment at Robert Moses and Fire Island beaches, as well as dedicated New York State funding for dredging, to plan and commence an emergency dredging project of the nearly shoaled Fire Island Inlet. Specifically, FEMA should approve approximately $20 million worth of submitted New York State projects from the 2009 and 2010 disaster declarations. The Corps should also prioritize this project on its work list for the New York District’s Operations and Maintenance program under the recently passed Continuing Resolution. Together, along with dedicated New York State resources, these funding streams should cover the costs to mobilize a dredging operation.
Fire Island Inlet is vital to the economy and quality of life of Long Island’s South Shore. The Inlet is the only major artery between the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and is heavily used by commercial and recreational fishermen and the United States Coast Guard (USCG). Moreover, an open Inlet serves to mitigate potential coastal flood events during major storm events.
Unfortunately, the inlet is in desperate need of dredging, a lack of which has caused significant trouble for those who use the waterway for work and play. Recently, the USCG issued a warning to boaters to avoid Fire Island Inlet because the water depths are as low as 4 feet at high tide and less than 1 foot at low tide. The shallow depths of the inlet also pose a public safety danger. The USCG Fire Island station is located just inside the inlet. Due to the current situation, the USCG stated it will no longer allow its 47-foot rescue boat to use the inlet for fear of running aground.
It is our understanding that there are several FEMA beach re-nourishment projects, specifically for the Inlet’s adjacent and eroded beaches, that could be combined with existing ACOE and New York State funding to jump-start the dredging project. We ask that FEMA and ACOE, in a partnership with New York State, work expeditiously to review available funding and pool all resources to perform necessary dredging at the Fire Island Inlet.
Fire Island Inlet play’s vital role in the region’s economy, as well as affects USCG’s ability to patrol our waters ,and needs to be appropriately maintained. We thank you for your attention to this request and reiterate our call for you to work together to quickly resolve this matter.
US. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand
cc: New York State Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation
NYS Emergency Management Office