Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today outlined the first phase of a proposed plan to help protect devastated coastal communities in New York from future storms. In a meeting with top officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, Schumer and Gillibrand laid out a series of projects, already authorized by Congress, that can and should be started quickly. These projects, outlined below, have all been federally authorized. Some need to be expanded, some need to be rebuilt, and some need to be jumpstarted – but all of them can be started quickly, while long term infrastructure changes are evaluated. The senators said these projects should be part of a comprehensive plan modeled on the post-Katrina Army Corps plan known as the “Greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction System.” Schumer and Gillibrand said that New York’s coastal infrastructure – beaches, dunes, and floodwalls – are critical to protecting future storm surge flooding from hurricanes and he would seek immediate authority and funding for these projects.
“These seven projects have been approved by Congress, are ready to be started or re-built, and should be the first phase of a comprehensive, Katrina-style protection plan for New York’s coasts,” said Schumer. “They will offer significant protection while our longer term infrastructure needs are evaluated. This is ready roadmap for storm- and flood-protection for New York that we can implement in the very near future that is affordable and based on the Army Corps successful actions after Katrina.”
“The Army Corps must immediately begin to execute these federally-approved projects to protect New York’s coastal communities and rebuild stronger,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It is critical that we act quickly and responsibly to launch a roadmap for future storm and flood protection for New York and to ensure that existing federal infrastructure plans spanning from Staten Island to Coney Island to Long Island are put into place.”
Under the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act (FFCE), the Corps has emergency authority to fight floods and repair damaged flood-control projects. Using this authority, Congress provides supplemental funding for the Corps to re-build existing structures and defenses and to build new projects to protect areas vulnerable to flooding. In many instances, especially after Katrina, Congress provided the Corps with billions in funding and additional flexibility to modify existing projects that need to be built to a higher standard for additional protection; accelerate stalled projects that were authorized but never built; and start broad, new storm-protection studies.
After Katrina, the Corps used this authority, and additional funding provided through Congress, to jumpstart projects to protect Louisiana and the surrounding states. Known as the “Greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction System,” the Corps has largely re-built and fortified all of the dunes, levees, floodwalls, pump stations and surge barriers that form the 133-mile Greater New Orleans perimeter system – at a cost of $14 billion. Using flexible authority known as “accelerate to completion,” the Corps was tasked by Congress to build out this infrastructure, mostly at full federal expense. In their meeting with the Corps, Schumer and Gillibrand also requested an updated damage assessment and estimated costs for repairs and construction within the next 10 days.
The Senators said there are 7 major already-approved federal projects along the New York Coast that need to be repaired, modified, or accelerated-to-construction. They asked the Corps to agree to begin these long-stalled projects as soon as funding is secured. Because they are already authorized, they can be started quickly and won’t require months or years of planning. They are as follows:
South Shore of Staten Island – The project area covers about 13 miles of coast on Staten Island, extending along lower New York Bay and Raritan Bay from Fort Wadsworth to Tottenville at the mouth of Arthur Kill. NYS and NYC are the local partners. A large sea wall has been proposed as a potential protection. Though authorized, this project was never constructed.
Long Beach Island -The project area is located on the south shore of Long Island from Jones Inlet to East Rockaway Inlet and consists of approximately 9 miles of oceanfront. A historical low height and narrow width of the beach front has increased the potential for storm damage. The recommended plan would provide dune protection against a 100-year storm event for 7 of the 9 miles of public shoreline between Jones Inlet and East Rockaway Inlet, including the communities of Point Lookout, Lido Beach, and the City of Long Beach. Though authorized, this project was never constructed.
Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) – The authorized project provides for hurricane protection and beach erosion control along five reaches of the south shore of Long Island between Fire Island Inlet and Montauk Point, a distance of approximately 83 miles. The project also authorizes federal participation in periodic beach nourishment. Major dunes and beach nourishment could commence across Islip and Brookhaven. The project was authorized but hasn’t been fully completed.
Coney Island – The Coney Island Reach project, which extends from West 37th Street to Brighton Beach, consists of approximately 3 miles of beachfront which provides storm damage reduction to the densely populated communities and infrastructure located along the shoreline of Coney Island. The beaches and dunes were last nourished in 1995. The Army Corps needs to repair lost beach and study and construct a higher dune, as well as constructing additional protections in Sea Gate.
Rockaway Beach – The project study area is located along the shoreline on the Rockaway Peninsula. The project was authorized by Congress as a 100-200 foot wide beach at an elevation of 10 feet from Beach 149th Street to Beach 19th Street, approximately 6.2 miles. From 1977 until 2004, the Corps of Engineers designed, constructed and maintained the project under two major construction projects. Because of the high costs, the Corps was directed to “reformulate” the original plan, with the objective of finding a long term, cost-effective solution to the effects of continued erosion on the Rockaway peninsula. The beach was last nourished in 2005 and new measures need to be designed and constructed.
Gilgo Beach (Fire Island to Jones Inlet) and Robert Moses Beach – This is a multi-purpose project that provides navigation and shore protection through the dredging of Fire Island Inlet with placement of dredged sand along the shoreline several miles west of the inlet at Gilgo Beach and Robert Moses Beach. The sand placed at Gilgo is intended to nourish the westerly beaches and provide storm damage protection. The Army Corps needs to repair the existing project, and expand the dune structure. Ocean Parkway was breached and a new road and protective feature must be installed. Working with New York State, additional nourishment and dune construction could commence at Robert Moses Beach and other areas identified to protect the badly damaged Ocean Parkway.
Asharoken – Asharoken Beach is a narrow section of land in the Town of Huntington, Suffolk County on the north shore of Long Island. Asharoken Beach connects Eaton’s Neck and part of the Village of Asharoken with the rest of the Village of Asharoken on the mainland of Long Island. The length of Asharoken Beach is approximately 2.5 miles. The roadway along Asharoken Beach, Asharoken Avenue, provides the only vehicular access to Eaton’s Neck. Recent coastal storms have accelerated shoreline erosion and inundated highly developed areas. The feasibility study needs to be completed and the project can be constructed at minimal cost.