The City of Long Beach has taken a grassy step toward restoring the dunes after Hurricane Sandy washed them away last year.
The City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution to purchase 380,000 beach grass plugs from Bisset Nursery, a Holtsville-based corporation, at a cost of $115,900. The plugs will be planted in the dunes, both in the east and west ends, this fall.
Jim LaCarrubba, the city’s commissioner of public works, said the beach grass will be delivered by Oct. 18.
“We’ll have the beach grass here in very short order and get right to work on getting it planted,” LaCarrubba told the council members at the Oct. 1 meeting.
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The city said beach grass is necessary to maintain the structural integrity of the dunes, and volunteers are invited to help city employees plant the plugs.
Meanwhile, Long Beach waits for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a long-term project to restore the beaches throughout the barrier island, a fully-funded federal project that is estimated to cost as much as $200 million. It will include a dune structure built along the south side of the boardwalk, sand restoration and re-elevation of the beach, and a refurbished jetty structure.
At a meeting of the West End Neighbors Civic Association on Sept. 18, LaCarrubba and City Managers Schnirman said the city would consider planting bushes in the dunes to further stabilize them, after several people at the meeting made that suggestion. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is “very, very much in favor of extensive plantings in dune structures,” LaCarrubba said. “So there would be no opposition to doing something more robust and more extensive after we get the initial planting done.”
The city obtained permits from the DEC to reconstruct the dunes prior to the Army Corps project that includes a more involved rebuilding. The dunes in the East End have already been rebuilt and those in the West End are still under construction.
“You should now see machines down here in the West End doing work on shaping the sand, being the sand was pushed to the back of the beach prior to the start of the summer season,” LaCarrubba said. “Those are going to be shaped in conformance with our DEC permit.”
The city is rebuilding the dunes to conform to the dimensions and positions called for in the Army Corps’ long-term project, so as to avoid the need to redo them once the project begins.
Asked when the Army Corps’ project is due to break ground, LaCarrubba could only give estimates that he indicated were based on hearsay and included timelines from the early months of 2014 to early 2015. He said the city expects to receive the Army Corps’ Limited Reevaluation Review (LRR) before year’s end.
“When that LRR is finalized and completed, the process then goes to the agreements between the state and the local communities, where we talk about all the little things, like where they set up staging areas — all the construction components — when the designs start, when to hold public meetings to get information out to the public, the time lines,” LaCarrubba explained. “Then everything goes out to bid and then we can start construction.”
“Because there are so many different layers of review,” he continued, “even when they do this limited reevaluation review, they review it in the region, they then send it to another region for review, then they send it to the state to review it and get comments, before they send it to us to review and get comments. So all of that takes time.”
The commissioner noted that when the Army Corps presented the original designs to reconstruct the beach in Long Beach in 2006, a proposal the City Council rejected, the timeline for construction across the entire barrier island was 54 months. The new proposal, he said, is on the fast track: “They’re estimating possibly 24 to 32 months. So it kind of moves it up almost two years.”
When the original dunes in Long Beach were built in 1985, after Hurricane Gloria, the city didn’t use designs or permits, and because they therefore were deemed non-engineered dunes, “there isn’t a single dime in [federal or state] funding to replace that,” LaCarrubba said. “The city on it’s own in paying for the [short-term] reconstruction of the dunes, in the east and west ends of the city, and is paying for all the plantings.”
Schnirman said that if the original dunes had been engineered, then the Army Corps would have automatically restored them to pre-storm conditions. “We’re not in that situation, which is really frustrating,” Schnirman said.
At the Sept. 18 civic meeting, Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford, a West End resident, said that after Sandy she observed the dunes in neighboring Atlantic Beach held up, in contrast to those in her neighborhood that were wiped away. LaCarrubba noted that the dunes in Atlantic Beach were “higher and a lot healthier than the ones in the city. They had a more robust structure.”
He explained that the storm blew everything from east to west and half a million cubic yards of sand from Long Beach went west to Atlantic Beach.
“The Village of Atlantic Beach was actually getting rid of sand, they had so much,” he reported. “And the Town of Hempstead would not allow the City of Long Beach to take it.”
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