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Call for Oceanfront Seawall Continues

A view of Long Beach from National Boulevard. (Credit: Joe Kellard)
A view of Long Beach from National Boulevard. (Credit: Joe Kellard)

Long Beach resident Ray Ellmer continues to call for construction of a seawall along the city’s oceanfront to protect against storms after Hurricane Sandy.

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Before the City Council on Nov. 19 approved the purchase of additional beach grass to plant in the rebuilt-but-temporary dunes, Ellmer commended this measure but told the councilmembers that a concrete seawall is also needed to protect against tidal surges that wiped out the sandy structures during Sandy.

“Other municipalities, the Rockaways and Belle Harbor, since the damage to their communities, they built seawalls of concrete, not sand dunes that would be similar with the Army Corps project,” said Ellmer, an attorney who is a Long Beach firefighter and lifeguard. “And we know that concrete seawalls don’t breach; sand dunes do.”

In February, when the city held community input meetings on rebuilding the storm-destroyed boardwalk, Ellmer said that building a seawall and a dune to protect life and property from hurricanes was more important. He maintained that building the wall was inseparable from rebuilding the 2.2-mile walkway, which he believed should have been built an extra two miles to extend from Pacific Boulevard to Ohio Avenue, almost the length of the city’s oceanfront.

At last month’s council meeting, Ellmer expressed doubt that the vinyl and fiberglass wave break wall that was built along the south side of the new hardwood boardwalk could withstand even a category one hurricane. “With a [category 1, 2 or 3] hurricane they could literally wash away,” said Ellmer, who is also a former trustee of the city’s zoning board.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the midst of developing a long-term project to restore the beaches throughout the barrier island. The fully-funded federal project, which is estimated to cost as much as $200 million, would include a dune structure along the entire span of the city’s coastline, as well as a restored and re-elevated beach and a refurbished jetty structure.

While it waits for this project to materialize, city obtained permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to reconstruct the dunes in the east and west ends, which were designed to conform to the dimensions and positions called for in the pending Army Corps project, so as to avoid the need to redo them when it breaks ground, possibly by next year or 2015.

At the Nov. 19 meeting, Ellmer called the existing dune in the West End a “sand castle” that would last about an hour during a hurricane. “And we’d have the same damage to our community that we did after Superstorm Sandy,” he added.

Ellmer noted that now is the time to rebuild communities “better and stronger,” and pointed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement last month that the state is committed to a $13 million storm protection project on Long Beach’s bay front that includes a 4,400-foot subgrade flood barrier, or “Dutch Dam,” which could be deployed at a height of 11 feet during a major storm, to protect the city’s sewer and water systems and other vital infrastructure. “But we don’t have a seawall on the ocean side to protect residents,” Ellmer said.

He added: “We could still put the seawall up. It can work in conjunction with dunes to afford maximum protection.”

While City council members did not respond to Ellmer’s comments at the meeting, the city has stated that beach grass is necessary to maintain the structural integrity of the dunes.

At the Nov. 19 meeting, the council passed a resolution to purchase 180,000 additional beach grass plugs, from Bisset Nursery, a Holtsville-based corporation, at a cost of $54,000. This measure came a month after the council approved the purchase of 380,000 beach grass plugs for $115,900 from Bisset. The city will seek reimbursement for these expenses through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Hamburger December 02, 2013 at 12:21 PM
Keep the boardwalk where it is, but yes please to the sea wall, as long as it continues all the way to Ohio ave. It it only extended to New York ave, the west end would be at an even greater risk to Southeast ocean swells
Sent from my Lear Jet December 02, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Woah there, not so fast. The surfers must be consulted before anyone acts on anything to do with the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Advice from them should be accepted without question as if it came directly from the lips of god himself. Accepting surfers as oracles on all matters oceanic never got anyone in trouble, has it? Peter King and the US Army Corps of Engineers know nothing--surfers are all knowing experts. Trust them...
Eddie December 02, 2013 at 01:28 PM
Let's spend hundreds of millions in tax dollars to possibly protect against another 430-year flood. It would be cheaper for those crying the loudest to simply move.
Hamburger December 02, 2013 at 02:42 PM
I'll take it - federal dollars to at least create the illusion that we are safe and as such, raising property value. Money would probably be otherwise spent on some bridge to nowhere
Jack December 02, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Why not extend the boardwalk west and east with the FEMA money?
Castles Made of Sand December 02, 2013 at 06:08 PM
What is the point of the black fiberglass wall? Was is put in place to stop moderate flooding? I wouldn't call it flimsy but it isn't structural. You certainly can't construct dunes up against it. When the Army Corp dune is finally built, what lies between the wall and the actual dune? Is is going to be that sand roadway that was talked about? And why black? didn't it come in gray or something neutral to match the cement? It sort of looks like a 2 mile long Vietnam War memorial. All the exposed hardware looks like crap too. Something as simple as exposing the bolt heads instead of looking at threaded rod and nuts at every railing connection would have been nice. For $45 million somebody with an once of aesthetics in their brain should have been consulted. Nobody thinks in this town.
Hamburger December 02, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Ask AB the same question re: extending the BW
Mr Dunes December 02, 2013 at 09:19 PM
HAHAHAHA
Penquin December 03, 2013 at 11:34 AM
I'm upset about the lack of a cement seawall as well. Those fiberglass units are useless. It would also be a big help if cement walls were built along the beach side of the empty lots in town. I'll never forget the vision of the waves crashing over the empty lot on Broadway at Laurelton.
danny-boy December 04, 2013 at 07:38 AM
OK, so LB rushed to tear down and rebuild a partially damaged boardwalk and incorporate the corrugated sheathing wall without any thought from the Army Corps of Engineers? And now we have approximately $5 million in this corrugated seawall - all for nothing? I suggest that the City have the engineer clarify the purpose and the details of this seawall and it's ability to keep us dry. I'd like to know the depth of the wall, how the smaller pieces under each concrete bent are secured (if they are), and if it is designed to resist the 8 ft. waves that it should. Why the wall wasn't backfilled with sand is beyond me - that would have provided the wall enough strength if the panels alone don't (at minimal cost). I like the seawall, always thought this would be an economical solution (maybe a little higher); but the questions to its adequacy and its incorporation into the Army Corps plan are essential.
Sent from my Lear Jet December 04, 2013 at 09:28 AM
Danny: At last, input on this subject from someone who knows what he is talking about. Pay attention people.

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