The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it is looking to complete a $230 million coastal protection project nearly a year ahead of schedule if it is able to work on the second phase of the project — sand replenishment and the building of dunes, with preliminary work set to begin this week — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We want to get this project started as quickly as possible — we have a plan right now where can provide complete protection for Long Beach in a matter of months,” said Project Manager Dan Falt. “We’re working with the City of Long Beach to get a [noise] variance so we can work much quicker. We think we can be done — if we get an early start and work 24 hours on beach replenishment — by September. The one issue would be, we don’t want to create too many disturbances on the beach.”
The Army Corps and the state Department of Environmental Conservation are scheduled to hold a public meeting at Long Beach City Hall on June 27 at 7 p.m., and another on June 28 at the Bishop Malloy Center in Point Lookout at 7 p.m., to update residents on the next phase of the project and the work schedule.
The project, which includes Point Lookout and Lido Beach, is intended to protect the barrier island from future storms like Hurricane Sandy, and is slated for completion in August 2019. The corps completed the first phase of the project — the reconstruction of 15 jetties, or groins, along the beach — over the winter.
The berm-dune-and-groin system is designed to protect seven of the nine miles of public shoreline between Jones Inlet and East Rockaway Inlet — from the east end of Point Lookout to Nevada Avenue in Long Beach — from a 100-year storm. The project began in Point Lookout in 2016.
A contract for sand dredging and placement was awarded to the lowest bidder, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Corporation, in April for $51 million. The project is fully federally funded. Falt said that its second phase would begin with pile driving for the dune crossovers, and that 1,000-foot sections of the beach would be closed off to allow for sand placement, which will extending the beach 200 to 300 feet between the water and the new dunes.
City officials said they are working to minimize the impact the work will have on the beach season, and had emphasized that all beaches would be open this summer. Officials expressed their concerns about that impact last year, when there were partial beach closures during work on the jetties.
Sand replenishment would take place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., although the corps is seeking a variance to work into the night.
“… [H]ow much sand replenishment is done over the summer depends on whether they get the noise variance, or whether we prohibit them from doing sand until after August, which was a request we made to them several times,” said John Mirando, the city’s commissioner of public works. “At this point, the City Council and staff are working very hard with the Army Corps, DEC and contractor to make sure there is minimal interruption to the beach season.”
Sandy decimated the city’s shoreline — the beach lost 294,000 cubic yards of sand — and officials contend that the project is crucial. Mirando said that sand would be pumped from an offshore barge, and the replenishment would involve payloaders and other vehicles on the beach working from east to west. Once the project is completed, if another major storm were to damage the beach, the city would also be eligible for federal emergency rehabilitation funding to replace the sand.
The plan calls for 25-foot-wide dunes that will run parallel to the boardwalk and rise to a height of 14 feet nearest the boardwalk. The project includes 14 dune crossovers in Long Beach alone, and the dunes would connect with those already in place on Nickerson Beach and in the city’s West End.
Workers began preparing to drive piles for the walkovers on Monday, but a specific date for the dredging and pumping of sand has yet to be set. Work would begin at Riverside Boulevard and head west as each beach is completed.
“There will be small closures next to the boardwalk where the new walkovers would be,” Falt said. “We’re building next to the old ones, to minimize any disturbances.”
The dune crossovers would connect the boardwalk to the beach. Ten of them would be 10 feet wide, and four — at New York Avenue and National, Riverside and Neptune boulevards — would be 30 feet wide. Two of them — at New York Avenue and National Boulevard — would have restrooms, while the Riverside Boulevard crossover would have a lifeguard station.
While the contractor plans to pile-drive the foundations for the restrooms and lifeguard station, the city will put the construction of the actual structures — which Mirando said are already designed — out to bid. About $1.7 million in Federal Emergency Management agency money would fund the construction.
“The schedule of sand replacement is up in the air because they have to apply for a noise variance from the city to work 24/7 — that’s what they’re looking to do,” Mirando said. “Driving in the piles will be a little loud, but they’ll do one set in two or three days and move on to the next location.”
Falt and Mirando said that a 30-inch pipe, running 3,500 feet from the ocean to Long Beach Boulevard, would pump sand onto the beach and move 300 feet west each day.
“While we’re anxious to get this project done, this is not as critical that we should financially impact the city if we lose beach revenue,” Mirando said. “We believe that no matter what happens, as they move along, there will be more beach [space], so more people can come down and enjoy the beach. It also gives us added protection.”
Bridget Downes contributed to this story.