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.
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