A published statement issued by the office of U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin recently announced the final placement of sand for the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fire Island to Moriches Inlet Stabilization Project (FIMI) as of June 11, 2020.
According to the New York First Congressional District Republican Party congressman, whose jurisdiction includes the eastern portion of Fire Island, 2.3 million cubic yards of sand were placed at Davis Park, Water Island, Fire Island Pines, Cherry Grove, Point O’Woods and Ocean Bay Park by Weeks Marine of Cranford, New Jersey.
“Superstorm Sandy devastated our coastal communities and businesses on Fire Island and across Long Island,” said Zeldin. “The ever looming threat of severe weather and coastal storms is a constant reminder of how important it is to quickly move forward with resiliency projects to ensure that we as a community are best prepared for the future. From long-term stabilization projects to emergency dredging, the Army Corps of Engineers has continued to work tirelessly to deliver on this important mission.”
This was the third and last leg of the $207 million post-Hurricane Sandy beach restoration project that has undertaken many twists and turns since first breaking ground in late 2014 – which has included timetable delays, house condemnations, and good old-fashioned bad weather.
With the third phase beginning last fall, many thought we were past with the worst of it. Yet an atypically harsh autumn full of nor’easters scoured parts of the beach – most notably in Atlantique – seemed to undo replenishment efforts that were so pristine just a few summers prior.
However what may be remembered most in the final phase of FIMI on Fire Island is the equipment diversions. Shortly after making respectable progress in the communities of Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove, operations abruptly ceased at the end of December, 2019 as dredges were ordered to the Hamptons to undertake emergency beach repair. The situation in the Hamptons was created by the same nor’easters that had devastated Fire Island’s shorelines.
While USACE promised their return by early spring, the appearance of different coastal towns within Suffolk County being put in the position of having to compete against each other for the same resources left a bad taste in the mouths of many Fire Islanders. No sooner had the Hamptons crisis been mitigated than a second diversion was announced in late February to send the dredger vessels to a beach in Florida, not terribly far from President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
“I am actually thrilled with the Army Corps of Engineers. They’re doing an outstanding job. Their priorities are in the right place,” said Zeldin in a New York Post article, as he came under fire for supporting the Palm Beach project over and above the needs of his own constituents.
Again, assurances were made that Point O’Woods and Ocean Bay Park would be completed by the contracted June 19, 2020 end date. Within weeks of his promises, pandemic would come to the nation’s shores, and Covid-19 made us all forget about such disputes for a little while. But we held our breath with each weather prediction that sounded potentially serious, as these last two Fire Island communities in the project lay exposed for that much longer.
Shortly before Memorial Day weekend the USACE return to was announced with foghorns emanating from the dredger ships just off Fire Island’s ocean shore. So mission accomplished with eight days to spare.
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