The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday that it had completed work on its coastal protection project ahead of schedule — and before the start of the hurricane season on June 1 — though city officials said that work would continue on the dune crossovers that connect the boardwalk to the beach, as well as dune plantings.
Army Corps officials said that protection features including new jetties, sand replenishment and dunes are now in place, but that supplemental features, like the crossovers and plantings, are still being worked on.
The second phase of the project included sand replenishment to expand the beach and dune construction to help protect the barrier island from a 100-year storm like Hurricane Sandy. The first phase of the project — the reconstruction of 15 jetties, or groins, along the beach — was completed last winter.
The project, which encompasses Point Lookout and Lido Beach, began in Point Lookout in 2016. Army Corps Public Affairs Specialist Michael Embrich said that the project, originally projected to cost $230 million, came in about $100 million under budget.
Concerns about new jetties
City and state officials expressed some concerns about the project, however. John Mirando, the city’s public works commissioner, said he was concerned about what he called a lack of foundation for the jetties, and explained that the boulders seem to be separating. The city hired a Florida coastal engineering firm to serve as a consultant on the project, and Mirando said it concluded that the jetties were not designed properly on the seaward ends.
“When we noticed that the ends of the groins seem to be coming apart, we brought them out here to look at it,” he said. “The length of the groins were extended in the design, but no foundation was put under them of base stone. The tidal action is making them settle.”
The largest stones range from 15,000 to 30,000 pounds, Mirando said. He first expressed concerns about the jetties’ foundations last spring.
“We’re not sure they’re going to hold up,” he continued. “They’re functioning now, but in three, five, 10 years? We put the Army Corps of Engineers on notice that we want them to maintain maintenance on them until they’re sure they’re going to work and hold up.”
Embrich said the jetties are “rock rubble structures, and they are performing as designed.”
And while city officials said the dunes are complete, they are concerned about a 12-foot-wide “maintenance aisle” between the dunes and the boardwalk that they said filled in with blown sand during the course of construction.
“We want [the Army Corps] to clear it out for us,” Mirando said. There’s two to three feet of sand in the maintenance aisle.”
He added that the Army Corps would work with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to check the jetties annually. Embrich said the corps would assess the project over the next five to six years and return for additional sand replenishment if needed.
Typically, once the corps completes construction on a project, it is turned over to the state and local municipality to maintain. But officials said that the Army Corps agreed to retain control of the project to ensure that the groins are operating as intended.
“The barrier island beach reconstruction is, without question, a game-changing and important project for our community,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said in a statement. “However, concerns remain regarding the integrity of the groins, so I am thankful that the Army Corps will retain control of the project and continue to monitor it, with promises to remedy it if that becomes necessary. This agreement ensures that our community remains protected, and taxpayers have an assurance that they won’t be left with an unworkable project.”
City officials are also seeking to install a buoy system that would warn swimmers and surfers about jetty stones that may not be visible at high tide, Mirando said, adding that they pose a potential danger. The city, he said, believes it would be the Army Corps’ responsibility to implement such a system, because the “nourishment of the beach caused this problem,” but Army Corps officials suggested installing signs on the beach instead.
In a news release on Tuesday, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, and Long Beach City Council President Anthony Eramo lauded the project. On Thursday, however, Schumer issued a statement expressing his concerns.
“When concerns about the quality of the rehabilitated groins were brought to my attention by the City of Long Beach, I told the Army Corps that we must do everything we can to ensure that this vital coastal resiliency project is operating as intended,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “That’s why I was pleased when the Army Corps agreed to retain control of the project to make sure the groins are keeping the sand on the beach."