The federal government has agreed to spend an additional $436 million to repair dunes, beaches and sea walls in coastal communities in New York, including those on the south shore of Nassau County, that were hammered by Hurricane Sandy, Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) announced last Tuesday.
Four projects that had previously been authorized but never completely financed will now receive full federal support through the hurricane relief bill, which was signed in January.
Schumer said he was able to obtain the additional money for the state by persuading the Army Corps of Engineers and the Office of Management and Budget to loosen the restrictions on the projects, adding a new category for programs already approved but never completed.
Prior to the addition of the new category by Schumer, states and local communities would have been responsible for 35 percent of cost the projects, which have been under consideration for years. Now, the federal government will pay the entire $1.2 billion cost.
The projects include dune protection for several miles of beachfront beginning in Long Beach and running eastward to Fire Island, as well as several projects in Brooklyn and Queens.
“These are some of the most important projects in New York and you might even argue in the country in terms of protecting heavily populated areas from storms,” Shumer said. “They have been held up for decades — the Long Island one for 50 years — for lack of funding.”
The projects are in various stages, and some are dormant. For example, a Congressional committee passed a resolution requiring a feasibility study for the Long Beach project in 1986. A decade later, the Water Resources Development Act authorized construction of the project.
But local concerns and further study prevented the project from ever being started.
The wording change that shifted the entire cost to Washington came in the form of an additional one-paragraph definition. An Army Corps of Engineers report identified four categories of construction: built, under construction, repair and restore.
After negotiations with Schumer, however, the corps added a new category: “completion of ongoing construction,” which included any authorized corps project that had received construction-account funds in the previous three fiscal years.
Since New York State requested that assessments be made to restart the Long Beach project last year, it could be categorized as ongoing construction.
“If these projects had been completed when they should have been, we would have suffered much less damage,” Senator Schumer said. “This is not sand replenishment. This is real damage control.”