The Fire Island Association (FIA) held a general meeting at the Ocean Beach Community House, on Saturday, July 27, at 1 p.m. FIA President Suzy Goldhirsch introduced the meeting by declaring the agenda. She set out to explain the mission behind FIA, discuss recent developments regarding the Fire Island Inlet to Moriches Inlet (FIMI) construction project, and to explore wastewater treatment plans.
FIA works closely with Fire Island National Seashore (FINS), according to Goldhirsch. FIA worked with the National Parks Service to craft a new General Management Plan for FINS.
“You all know what FIA does,” said Goldhirsch. “We represent all 17 communities. We are a part of FIA because we are stewards of our community.” According to FIA’s mission statement, the organization exists to “protect, preserve and enhance the island we all love for future generations.” This mission is advanced by five objectives: communication, partnership, advocacy, shoreline management and year-round community support. “We are seven years post Sandy and sand is needed out on the east end,” said Goldhirsch. “The project will move from Davis Park to Ocean Bay Park … opposed to last time, the project will be moving from east to west. It will make its way through six communities.”
According to a FIMI construction update made available on July 2, the final FIMI contract regarding sand placement will proceed in the Brookhaven communities. This final contract phase brings 2.3 million cubic yards of sand for placement and construction of 34 crossovers, two ADA accessible walkovers, and vehicular crossovers throughout the affected communities.
“The main reason they are moving from the east is because there is very serious erosion in Davis Park,” said Goldhirsch. “At the end of November, perhaps the beginning of December, the project will reach its final stages in Ocean Bay Park.”
Brownie Companies was chosen as the contractor to carry out the project. They have assured communication with each community to minimize any disruption. “There is a weekly construction phone call with the Army Corps., Brownie, the DEC, Suffolk County, and more, made to bring everyone up to date on the progress of the project,” said Goldhirsch. “I made a large effort to get FIA included in those calls because we want to ensure that the communities are informed. It was agreed that local communities are a partner in this project, and we were granted that inclusion.”
According to the July 2 construction update, there are two dredges located 3,000 feet from shore, working 24/7 to load sand from the borrow site and pump it back to shore. While visible, the dredges cannot be heard from the shore.
“It is extremely important to think about wastewater treatment considering the ocean is rising, the bay is rising…” said Goldhirsch. “Here in Ocean Beach, there are sewers that were built in 1910. In most of the communities, we have mostly old-fashioned onsite wastewater disposal systems.” Goldhirsch names global warming as the first reason we need to rethink wastewater treatment. “We can’t sit back and keep flushing the same old way,” said Goldhirsch. “We are going to have to start thinking about new ways to manage our wastewater to effectively serve our environment.”
Goldhirsch called upon Rodman Paul, FIA vice president, to discuss different engineering routes that are being considered by Suffolk County to better manage wastewater. “The county often generates new rules to manage wastewater,” said Paul. “One of the big things that Suzy and I try to do is keep track of whatever new rules they are considering and try and see if they are accommodating to Fire Island at all. And the good news is that the Health Department recently did a pilot study utilizing Fire Island.” According to Paul, this pilot study investigated what Suffolk County calls innovative and alternative systems to deal with wastewater.
“Their study demonstrated that there are at least two systems that are quite feasible for Fire Island,” said Paul. “The problem is that they are expensive. So, our goal is to bring costs down so that we can engage with these innovative alternative systems.” Alex Romero, FINS superintendent, spoke after Goldhirsch, representing the National Parks Service. He led an inter-community discussion about the benefits and challenges of living, working, and visiting Fire Island. “One thing that I realized working here is the level of commitment that each one of the communities have; this meeting can be used as an example,” said Romero.
“Every single town hall meeting has some fact finding that can be done, and I would like to engage in an activity to gain insight.” Romero explained that there were a few poster boards in the back of the room. One asked citizens to rate from 1 to 10: “Do you think there is too much beach driving in the summer,” and “Do you think there are too many bicycles in the communities.”
Using different colored stickers to indicate your Fire Island status, renter, worker, day-tripper and business owner, among others, small circles took over the scale on the board. “Are there challenges living on Fire Island is our other board,” said Romero. “Whether it relates to your access to resources or driving, we want you to write down your responses … write down as many challenges as you would like.”
Additional Fire Island National Seashore Town Hall Meetings will be held at the following locations:
•Fire Island Pines at Whyte Hall, Saturday, Aug. 10, 1- 3 p.m.
•Saltaire at Village Hall, Saturday, Aug. 24, 10 a.m.- noon.
•Corneille Estates at Woodhull Elementary School, Thursday, Sept. 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
All stakeholders are encouraged to attend and have their voices heard.
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